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Saturday, July 09, 2011


Most of my blog readers are not from Malaysia. Many are from Japan, or perhaps people interested in Japan. Unsurprising, considering that I'm in Tokyo.

Therefore, I find a need to create awareness of the Bersih ("clean" in Malay) Rally happening right now, yes, RIGHT NOW, in Malaysia.

And mass arrests are happening. Our ever-diligent police had set up road blocks, deployed trucks mounted with water cannons, seal off parts of the capital Kuala Lumpur, in an attempt to prevent this banned rally. (While I am writing this, a couple of people I know have tweeted that they've gotten tear gases in their eye)

You can read more about it here.

Quote a few paragraphs from the article to give you some context.

The opposition-backed rally planned for Saturday afternoon is the culmination of weeks of pressure on Prime Minister Najib Razak's long-ruling coalition to make election laws fairer and more transparent ahead of national polls widely expected by mid-2012. The National Front has been in power since independence from Britain in 1957, but opposition gains in recent years have spurred calls for change.

The Bersih coalition of civic groups organizing the rally has voiced hopes of attracting tens of thousands of people for what would be Malaysia's biggest political rally in nearly four years.

I also made a reference to this more than a week ago, when I mentioned that our national laureate, A Samad Said, was taken by the cops for questioning after his latest poem 'Unggun Bersih' ('Bersih Fire') was accused of being 'seditious'. It's also why I changed the colour of this blog layout into yellow, to show solidarity.

Over the past few days, people are getting arrested for wearing T-shirts. To the point where a child is worried about wearing her yellow sports gear to school. Well, I hope our omnipotent government and police are proud of the fact that their attempts of spreading this culture of fear and paranoia is reaching even the young generations. 1Malaysia indeed. I can never forget my annoyance, when, during the 2008 elections, someone said this:

"It's better not to vote for the Opposition. Otherwise the Government would retaliate..."

Another Malaysiakini article has this to say:

What should have been a rather straightforward matter of a peaceful street march in support of democratic demands has turned out to be a high voltage melodrama inflated to the shrill proportions of celluloid fantasies.

True, events like the Arab Spring and recent election results in neighbouring Thailand where opposition forces gained a landslide win after a long struggle have jangled the nerves of Malaysia's ruling plutocracy.

Still, there are better ways than just the flaunting of the mailed fist in dealing with the demands of Bersih.

But one supposes that for people who have been so long in power, reliance on a reflex rather than a fresh idea is standard practice.

I will try not to make such harsh accusations against the government. Our former information minister Zainuddin Maidin was very eloquent and articulate when interviewed by Al Jazeera on the first BERSIH protest in 2007 (the current rally is known as BERSIH 2.0). Role model of the century. Him. I bow before his sheer oratory skills.

Here's a gallery of Bersih photos, constantly being updated.

Even my friend Sebastian is documenting the rally.

More than an hour ago, I tweeted this.

In Tokyo, but my heart's with Malaysia. Having a debate with govt to voice doubts is not unpatriotic, it's citizen responsibility #Bersih

I'll just end this with a quote by Frederick Douglass (1818-1895)

Liberty is meaningless where the right to utter one’s thoughts and opinions has ceased to exist. That, of all rights, is the dread of tyrants. It is the right which they first of all strike down.

Stop trying to be a tyrant, jeez.

UPDATED: (5:02pm)

The rally lasted from 2pm to 4pm (3-5pm Japan time). Looking at the tweets now, I can see that some of the people I know who went for the rally are starting to disperse, their voices were heard, their jobs were done, thus they left upon the agreed time.

I hope their voices were heard, and changes would be made. Otherwise, all the courage and love shown by the people at the rally would be wasted.

I've been following Malaysiakini's live update of the entire thing.

The last entry is:

3.50am: Pasar Seni - Bersih leader Wong Chin Huat, after reading out the eight demands of Bersih 2.0, call on the crowd to disperse.

The crowd begins to disperse peacefully but many of them still chanting 'Reformasi' and 'Bersih' under the Pasar Seni LRT station.

The police responded by firing another round of tear gas into the crowd.


Anyway, it's good to see that, despite all these warnings from fearmongers and our all-wise government, the rally was mostly a peaceful one. KL is not in flames, there are no dead bodies strewn about. After all, we Malaysians are generally laidback, peace-loving people, we are almost non-confrontational.

I will point out that the police were merely doing their jobs. Looking at some tweets and Facebook updates, there were reports that when it all ended, demonstrators and the police shook hands, there were mutual understanding. It warmed my heart, knowing this.

Trying so hard to demonize citizens who are merely trying to make their voices heard was ridiculous. We as a nation has to have a debate to know what's right for the country, that's democracy. Not being a V For Vendetta fan, I won't scream something like "the people should not fear the government, the government should fear the people!" because that's too extreme. Nonetheless, the rough idea is there, this is democracy, not autocracy. We voice our concerns because we care.

From what I see, BERSIH had seemed to unite the people pretty well.

The Star Online has a photo gallery of the Bersih Rally.

Or you can check out the photo album on Malaysiakini's Facebook page.

Another historic moment in Malaysia, yet here I am, almost half a world away.