When the Bar Council issued a request for lawyers to assist in the monitoring team, I was interested to assist. When 3 of my colleagues, Himah, Jack and Dymphna signed up, I immediately joined them.
The team’s role is quite simple. We are required to document the event and assist those arrested by obtaining their details so that we can forward the details to Bar Council for further assistance. To put in this way, medics are there to attend to the poor while the lawyers are there to attend to those arrested.
Bersih 2.0 Rally is a rally organised by Bersih which comprises of civil society organisations and political parties with the objective of campaigning for clean and fair elections in Malaysia. The rally calls for 8 points namely:-
1. Clean the electoral roll
2. Reform postal ballot
3. Use of indelible ink
4. Minimum 21 days campaign period
5. Free and fair access to media
6. Strengthen public institutions
7. Stop corruption
8. Stop dirty politics
During the past 2 weeks, many things happened. Many people were arrested, Bersih was declared an illegal society and those in yellow attire were arrested. The Agong called for Government and Bersih to meet. Chairperson of Bersih and former President of Bar Council, Ambiga met the Agong and the Agong allowed the rally be held in a stadium. However, no permit was granted for the rally and request to use the National Stadium was denied.
This led to the rally being held in the city of Kuala Lumpur. Soon, the roads leading to Kuala Lumpur were blocked by Saturday midnight. However, the trains services were available.
My colleagues and I were scheduled to meet the Bar Council monitoring team at 10am hence to avoid from being stuck in a jam to the city, we decided to pull a night at DoubleTree Hotel. We got a very good rate hence the four of us shared a room.
The roads of Kuala Lumpur were empty when we arrived at Bar Council. Many roads were closed. We took the train and stopped at Masjid Jamek. Police presence was heavy there.
Wanted to plank on the streets but had no balls to.
We were regularly updated by the Bar Council on the latest events.
Dymphna and I were stationed at Jalan Tun H.S Lee. As soon as we arrived at Jalan Tun H.S Lee, we saw numerous police trucks and personnel.
Saw some people being detained in this Black Maria.
Few minutes later, it was reported that a crowd of 1,000 people were matching from KL Sentral towards Central Market.
As an observer, we are allowed to roam into the police’s territory. The police was nice to us. We are not allowed to take part in the procession or even make statements to the press.
When the crowd arrived, they were chanting “REFORMASI! The crowd was predominantly Malay. The road in front of Central Market was blocked hence they moved to Dataran Merdeka.
The crowd of 1,000
We returned to our station. I could see the crowd from far.
Suddenly, the police shot tear gas onto the crowd and the crowd started running towards us. We had to run as well!
As the gas was shot some distance away, the effect on us was little. But I could smell ammonia.
Some came prepared
The crowd moved towards Petaling Street (Chinatown) and was soon joined by the Chinese crowd from Petaling Street. Someone on twitter said that the Indians were still hungover.
Soon, the crowd swelled in Chinatown. It was so huge that it took more than 10 minutes for the crowd to pass me. It was peaceful and like a carnival.
Some were carrying flowers.
Balloons were thrown around.
Some people took pictures as if they were attending a party. The crowd was multiracial.
When the crowd moved to Hentian Pudu, the drama started. It was a joyful and loud crowd. It soon grew bigger when it was joined by another massive crowd. It was so huge that I couldn’t see the end. Certainly more than 6,000 people, the number claimed by the police.
We stood by the hillside of Menara Maybank and a good view of the crowd. The chants and roars were so loud that it gave me goose bumps. It brought people of all races together. It was unity of all the races. No multi-million dollars 1Malaysia project can bring Malaysians to this level.
Suddenly, a FRU truck sprayed water at the crowd. I could see one person trying to restrain the crowd from retaliating.
This person was carrying a Malaysian flag. Berita Minggu said that he carried a knife.
But soon, a group of people attacked the truck and that is when the police fired tear gas on to the crowd again.
We immediately ran for cover. A policeman guided us out from the building. He didn’t leave although the gas was heading towards him. I am grateful for his help.
My eyes started to tear. I washed my face with mineral water and offered salt to anyone who needs it. But I wasn’t the only one with salt, many people were offering each other with salt, water or any form of help.
The effect to my eyes after being tear gassed is like having onion rubbed into my eyes. I couldn’t stop crying. Breathing was difficult too.
Even a monk was caught in the melee
We rested at the back lane of Menara Maybank for a while and went back to Hentian Pudu again. The crowd got pushed behind. A group of police then rushed towards the crowd and I heard one policeman shouting, “Catch those in yellow!”. People started running and I saw some people jumping off cliffs to escape.
Some people were pushed to the ground and are tied with plastic
We immediately offered assistance those who were arrested and took down their names to be forwarded to the Bar Council to assist them later. The police allowed us to do so without any interruptions.
We thought it will be safe with the police but when they started firing tear gas again, the wind blew and the gas hit us. We had to run again!
Fortunately, it started to rain heavily. The sky was crying for Malaysia.
Hentian Pudu was empty
We rested at Menara Maybank for a while. We bumped into some other volunteer lawyers and we gathered to move to Stadium Negara. Many of us lost our group members.
Soon, we were joined by more lawyers and moved towards Stadium Negara. At this time. I heard news of people being stuck in Tung Shin Hospital and tear gas was fired into the hospital.
Just as I thought the crowd died down, the crowd at Stadium Negara was massive. They were moving towards Chinese Assembly Hall.
Many shops were closed but KK Super Market opened its doors.
I bet this ice cream seller’s sales shot up to 1000%. I also bet he prays for a rally every day.
The crowd allowed a taxi to go through. What violence?
TV3 reporters being booed by the crowd. At one point, they chanted, “PENIPU (Liar)”.
Smart way to move.
After being with the crowd for a while, I realize that these people were just like us. Some were students, professionals, employees, businessmen and housewives. Anyone can be a part of this rally. Even though many of the organisers of Bersih were arrested, the rally went on. Some people travelled into the city without any knowledge of the actual plan.
Photographers found a good spot to take pictures
By 4pm, the crowd started to dispersed at Chinese Assembly Hall. The police suddenly appeared and chased after the crowd and the crowd ran helter-skelter. The lawyers stayed on to witness the attack.
We then followed the police and minutes later, we witnessed their cry of disperse. It was all over for us.
We went back to the Bar Council for debriefing.
Over 1,400 people were arrested (later released) and 2 people died. One from breathing difficulty and another one from being hit by a tear gas canister. RIP.
In the end of the day, I was tear gassed, all wet, had legs cramp and sun burn. But it was all good when random people came up to me to shouting “Hidup Bar Council!” and “You guys did a good job policing the police!”.
I am proud to have served the civil society. A change is all we need.
Note: This post does not represent the views of the Bar Council or its monitoring team. All views and errors are mine.