PKR comrade Sdr Will Leong forwarded an email with a first-hand account by a "young Malaysian" on the "historic"November "V"OTE4CHANGE and "V"$VICTORY Rally in Kuala Lumpur on November 10. Desi does a small part to support this future gen's Young Voice of HOPE for NegaraKu. ENJOY!:)
Saturday, November 10, 2007
You will not be able to Breathe: My report from the Bersih Rally
This is not some second-hand story; this is an account from the front line.
These are not borrowed photographs; these are pictures from the epicentre.
Because that was what the situation descended to in the city centre this afternoon, where my entire view of the present government was shattered the moment I saw those first gas cannisters fly. You can read it in a paper, on a website, in a forwarded email, but the magnanimity of the brutality will never compare to the panic that infiltrated into my being, and the fear that I now harbour for the government.
You could feel the stillness in the air, the sudden descent of tension into the atmosphere. Ominous signs paraded before us, my younger brother, my sister and I, before we even left the house. We headed toward the city via the Putra LRT, where Shaz managed this almost candid shot of policemen in RapidKL uniforms being briefed by a senior officer.
Once we exited the station at Masjid Jamek, we were greeted by the ever heart-warming sight of riot police. Here they call them the Federal Reserve Unit, but they are nothing more than mercenaries in uniform. Zealots armed with batons and gas launchers, completely apathetic to the growing crowd, swollen by passer-bys and passionate Malaysians. The police sprayed preliminary water-cannon fire on the crowd, which I wasn't to concerned about. It was only upon reaching home that I found out they were contaminated with chemicals.
Now there is something of great importance that I need to stress; in no way, absolutely none, did the demonstrators aim to incite the police. There was lots of chanting, of slogan shouting, of crowd rallying, but there was no hatred or contempt hurled against those in power. In short, we did not merit the treatment we received. One may say, "But it was an illegal gathering anyway." How can the executive issue a decree banning the people in a democracy from voicing their opinion? We are not looking for a riot. We're not looking for impeachment. We're not looking for a revolution. We want clean elections. After all, if the government did its job efficiently, without corruption,racism and wanton aggression, why would we want to vote for the opposition? The demonstration today was truly a model demonstration. A peaceful, passionate crowd standing defiant, in a completely passive manner. It was a moment to remember, the solidarity on the f aces of others as we stared down the threats in the hope of a better tomorrow.
All until the police became violent.
And then God played his hand; the heavens opened as it started to pour. As the precipitation flowed down my skin, a sickening sight developed before my eyes. If you notice in the above picture, the corner was crowded with people, having made some headway, only for cannon fire to push us back to the aforementioned corner. That's when the police formed a line, and fired tear gas at the crowd.
Fellow Malaysians, firing on their countrymen.
It wasn't so much as the actual shooting which was horrendous, but seeing them take their line of sight made my stomach turn. These uncompassionate robots, protectors of the society shooting against the people they swear to protect. Here they are, ladies and gentlemen, "dispersing crowds", while paedophiles run riot, pun very much intended.
When they fired, they shot directly infront of the crowd. Shaz and I happened to be caught in between a mass of bodies and a drain barrier. Just like some bad war movie, everything seemed to happen in slow motion, as the cannister rolled to a stop barely 10 feet away. Time sped back to normal as the people around me started scrambling into the nearby station. Shaz and I were stuck outside, but fortunately, my brother was pulled in by a fairy-tale hero.
"Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death", but don't give me tear gas. The following account is in no way dramatisation, it is, as it is. Maybe it was my severe underestimation of the pain, both physical and psychological, that caused my hesitation. If not for the rain, I shudder to think of the potential pain. Had I known...
Completely immobile and covering our faces with wet cloths, we were powerless for a good 45 seconds to the gas. Initially, you feel a sting in your nose. As the pain increases, it ignites your eyeballs into blindness. As the pain mounts unbearable, tears streaming uncontrollably out of your eyes, the gas enters the pores on your face, the sensation acid to the pH. As you try and escape the gas, running literally blindly, with your skin aflame, the gas enters your lungs, constricting respiration to almost nil. Every inhalation you take is void of oxygen, and soon you will not be able to breathe. More than once the thought of death surfaced in my mind, as I moved with, not fought against the crowd to clear the area. Shazee later told me she thought she was as good as gone as well. Tear gas brings you to the edge of death, only for you to be resuscitated back into Hell.
Finally, we broke into the station, where the gas was less. The stations themselves had all been shutdown, effectively freezing all those in the city centre, as the station officials looked on with barely masked glee. The three of us huddled in a small corner, tears, mucus and saliva smeared all over our faces like a child's hand painting, resisting the temptation to throw up. We sat there recuperating for much of the time, before continuing down the street, away from the uncivil servants. We lingered on the corner, based on utter foolishness, that the police wouldn't shoot again with so many ordinary civilians. Around us were myriad characters, women and children, to armchair politicians raised to a fury.
And then they fired again.
Now I'm unaware in the ensuing panic whether they fired two volleys or one, for as we moved away from the gas (by the way, huge kudos to all BERSIH chaps for ensuring people kept cool) we turned into the corner. The shots were similar to the first episode in that they were fired infront of the crowd, however, as we entered the corner there was ANOTHER canister on my right barely 10 feet away. What luck.
As we scrambled yet again, in my mind I was still able to ponder, as the familiar pain returns, "Are they aware of how devastatingly painful it is?" I question the tactics of the police. Why fire so unbelievably close to the crowd? The gas is supposed to deter and disperse, not to cause chaos and anarchy. How would they have liked it, that fatalistic sensation creeping upon themselves?
We were able to move quicker this time. The crowd pushed and heaved past empty buildings, knocking over motorcycles carelessly parked. An entry point of one office building, and we all rushed in, taking to the stairs, and as the sensation died down the sight in the stairwell was one to behold. Like some kind of urban warfare, there were people slumped against the wall, faces in disarray, completely broken in spirit, trying to regain some semblance of composure. Around went a saviour passing out salt, which miraculously rid us of the worst effects almost instantly. Resigned to painful defeat, we decided to walk back home, with public transport at the mercy of the government.
Funnily enough, we found ourselves walking towards Istana Negara, where the memo was to be passed to the king. And i've just learned from dad that as we left the city, people lingered on as a decoy, while a mass gathering took place at the Istana. Ingenious, when you see the size of the crowd. Once again, hats off and big kudos the the organisers who did a fantastic job of keeping everyone calm, orderly, help direct traffic, etcetera etcetera.
At the Istana, it was a normal looking sort of demonstration, one which did not look like it was gonna get ugly. Cheers as I presume the memo was handed over, and the crowd slowly dispersed. As quickly as the tear gas hit, it was all over.
Even now, as I write this, I feel a mild headache coming on. It may or may not be a side effect, but surely the worrying thing is my willingness to believe it is born out of injustice. For now, I have come to a deeper understanding as to why private security is still employed despite the police, and I may cower everytime I see smoke or smell something foreign in the air.
Today serves as a landmark for my patriotism. Today serves as a landmark for the nation's patriotism, for in the face of such cruelty and opposition we prevailed and were crowned victors of the day. I also hope, that with the events of today, change shall, God willing, be effected. The people have spoken, the people have risen, the people have taken action. The onus passes to the King as a test of strength, and to the government to clean up its act.
You want the votes? Bloody earn it.