Suanie’s experience at the BERSIH 2.0 rally on 09 July 2011 at Puduraya

Long post ahead. Really one, I no bluff you.

In this blog post, I’m documenting mostly of what I saw (not all, ‘cos you really don’t want to know the price of my LRT ticket, do you?), some of what I’ve heard from friends’ own accounts and very, very little of what I’ve read from strangers’ accounts.

Why did I go for the BERSIH 2.0 rally? ‘Cos I believe that its basic objective is to call for reforming the electoral process in Malaysia for cleaner and fairer elections. Did I not think that Malaysia’s elections aren’t fair and clean? No, I don’t believe so. What if you believed? That’s you, not me.

I’m not a member of any political parties, only a Malaysian who loves her country. Doesn’t mean I HAVE to love Malaysia’s current ruling coalition. Doesn’t mean I blindly believe and support the opposition parties. I disagree with the infiltration of certain people whom I highly distrust (read: Anwar Ibrahim) into the BERSIH 2.0 front. But I believe that if the situation was reversed, BN would have done the same.

I believe in peaceful rallies. I see it as a sign of stating your cause and gathering more support. Hey, sounds like the ceramah and walkabouts that politicians do during election time! I don’t believe it is illegal, especially coming from those who cannot handle keris and cow heads.

It’s like changing your Facebook status to show support for cancer patients who have only one wish, that is to kick cancer’s butt so if you agree post this as your status for at least one hour. Or running to help raise money for causes that you believe in. Same principles, really.

I don’t believe the mainstream media can report what they really feel. Have you heard of the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984? It’s a draconian remnant from Mahathir’s early leadership. In a nutshell, all print publications have to renew their license every year with the Home Ministry. The Home Ministry can revoke or choose not to have the licenses renewed for their own reasons. The Star has a few thousand employees under its payroll. That’s a lot of livelihoods, you know.

But for elections to be fair, the press has to be free. Of course, not all press and journalists are for BERSIH 2.0. But right now, it seems that all of them are against it. I personally know that it’s not the case. People who were there know what really went down.

Thanks to the Internet, it’s not like last time already. Not everything have to rely on the mainstream press. Real live eyewitnesses can report what they see via many ways, take photos and videos and post them on the scene even. Funny hor, this ‘freedom’ also have to thank Mahathir.

OK enough intro or not? Enough la, I’m tired of writing it. Anyway, I didn’t have any concrete plans to join the rally on Saturday. The night before, I thought maybe I’d go. Honestly speaking, I was scared also. Why? Errr ‘cos the PDRM is under the Ministry of Home Affairs; I’ve read news/ watched videos of what they have done in previous events; and a lot of Malaysians have been told since they were kids to be afraid of the opposition parties, teachers and police. And of course, Jews ๐Ÿ˜‰

So I read more articles on BERSIH and what people on Twitter and Facebook have to say about it. Got a sense of like, want to go like that. But scared. But want to go. But scared. How? Sleep over it lah. Woke up at 10am when mom called me.

“Errr.. no.”
“Hahahahha not yet ar? Ok bye!”

Read Twitter and saw that a reporter friend was there already. Suddenly got wind to go. But didn’t want to go alone. Called KY, asked if he would go with me. Went to his area, had breakfast then took the LRT to Central Market. Sister called me,

“Where are you?”
“Err.. going to BERSIH 2.0.”
“Oh. Be safe, keep me posted so I know you’re safe. Don’t worry about anything, I’ll bail you out.”
“Can you bail KY out also?”
“Yes don’t worry about it!!”

Wore black. Briefly glanced through tweets (tweet = a message sent via Twitter) claiming that the police were detaining anyone dressed in yellow. Could be from a fake Twitter account wanting to scare people into not going out, but I was scared enough, didn’t want to be stopped from entering the city at all. Later my friend told me that she and her boyfriend wore yellow from top to bottom, got hard stares from the police as they exited the LRT station but that was about it.

Lots of police at the Pasar Seni LRT stop. We walked towards Central Market. Saw Bar Council members, happy. Saw lots of police at the Central Market side, questioning people. We headed for Petaling Street instead. Went past Pudu towards Masjid Jamek to meet my friend. Oh yah, the entire city was very quiet, a heavy feeling. Was a bit shocked to see an older man wearing a plain yellow tee, strutting around proudly.

BERSIH 2.0 - 11.50am - clear and empty KL streets
11.50am – nearly empty KL streets

Met my friend who was with two other media friends. They’d checked out Masjid Jamek enough, wanted to go to Bukit Bintang to check out Khairy Jamaluddin’s PATRIOT rally. We walked towards Jalan Raja Chulan, then Changkat Raja Chulan, then Changkat Bukit Bintang, then Bukit Bintang at the McDonalds/ Lot 10 junction. Total: 2km.

BERSIH 2.0 - 12.07pm - walking on Jalan Raja Chulan
12.07pm – jalan-jalan makan angin

Lots of press around Bukit Bintang. Must have been about 12.30pm, totally no hint of any action. Khairy had tweeted that the PATRIOT would be there at 1pm. We went to McDonalds to have a drink and get information online. Lots of ‘happening’ at Masjid Jamek, after we left. Har har. 1pm came and went, nothing also. Khairy Malaysian timing.

We hung out outside KFC with more media. Passer-bys must have been very puzzled at people with cameras and wearing press jackets, just standing around. Still no Khairy. Then someone across the road shouted and pointed towards the back lane at Jalan Bulan. Everyone including us starting running towards the back road. It was quite a sight, everyone walking and running, hahah.

BERSIH 2.0 - 1.17pm - Media rushing to Pudu Plaza
1.17pm – Members of the Malaysian media

Okay this is the mystifying part. From the back, we could see that there were a lot of people walking on Jalan Bukit Bintang. HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?!?! A few minutes ago, we were just up the road at KFC, didn’t see anything also! Then we went towards the back road and came out to Jalan Bukit Bintang again, there were a LOT of people walking! Where did they come from?? I wish someone would enlighten me.

The people were chanting slogans BERSIH BERSIH and walking on one side of the road. A few marshals were there to guide them and help make way for incoming cars. At the traffic light, they crossed the road to the left side of the road. We were quite behind, so walked fast and ran a bit.

BERSIH 2.0 - 1.23pm - towards Puduraya
1.23pm – at the beginning of Jalan Pudu

Damn hot. Reporter friend ran towards the front to take photos. Me and KY went to the opposite road to take photos. Walk walk walk, until the people in the crowd were gesturing and asking those on the other side to join them. So we did. Was quite an experience. People of all colours, races, shapes, ages and sizes happily walking, occasionally shouting slogans like, BERSIH BERSIH! HIDUP RAKYAT! HIDUP RAJA! PEACE PEACE! (which I initially thought was piss, so I was like, wtf??). Didn’t agree with the shouting of REFORMASI. Yes I know it can mean reforming the electoral system. But here in Malaysia, it’s well-known as an Anwar thing. So no, I DISAGREE!

Heard cheers from above. Looked up, saw people in the units above the closed shops were gathered at their windows, smiling, cheering and giving the thumbs-up to the walking crowd. The crowd cheered back. Same scenario for shops at both sides of the road stretching down a few blocks.

BERSIH 2.0 - 1.32pm - At Puduraya
1.32pm – At the Puduraya bus terminal

Reached the junction of Puduraya/ Menara Maybank. The front stopped walking, marshals urging people to get closer. Saw FRU trucks and units way up front. We were in the middle towards the back. Rally people urged those at the hill to come down and join them. Greeted with smiles.

BERSIH 2.0 - 1.35pm - asking people on the hill to come down
1.35pm – turun, turun

Got 2 helicopters circling and flying low. From where I stand, everyone was grinning and randomly chanting slogans. Saw familiar faces. Happy to see familiar faces. Don’t know what’s happening up front, can’t see anything. Saw FRU truck inching closer. Then…

BERSIH 2.0 - 1.40pm - first water cannon sprayed
1.40pm – first water cannon sprayed at crowd that I saw

Saw FRU truck started to spray water cannon. Crowd starting booing. What was it like? Nah, video:

People sang Negaraku. Then booed at the FRU again. Crowd still mostly motionless, until tear gas were deployed. People starting running backwards. We also ran towards the back of the Puduraya bus terminal. More tear gas deployed. Nose, face, mouth, throat all stung like @#U(@#@#&@#*@. Was shocked ‘cos never kena before mah. After a while, felt better. People were distributing water (to wash face) and salt (don’t know why, I think it helps?) to everyone else. If you needed help or even look like you needed help, believe me; you would have received it there and then by many people.

Lingered, tried to get hold of reporter friend. Suddenly got mad rush, everyone tried to escape via a small walkway towards the monorail. We ended up going down to the Puduraya bus terminal to look for our friend. Saw some people with really red eyes, they got hit quite bad. Luckily got water hose, heh. A few seated makciks moaning about keganasan FRU.

Emerged back to Jalan Pudu next to the bus terminal. Crowd starting gathering again. At around 2pm, it started drizzling. Everyone was happy. By this time, it was a lot of forth and back with the FRU trucks, i.e. they sprayed water cannon + fired tear gas = crowd went backwards a bit. They inched forward. Then crowd inched forward. Repeat a lot of times. All I saw was the crowd making sure that the crowd behaves and everyone complied. Here’s a very short video of the crowd chanting while retreating before going back again.

FRU was closer and closer. More tear gas and water cannons. Wow I could see the blue chemical bits spraying out! Was angry because my tax money paid for the chemical, you know!!! Ok lah not really, I don’t earn that much to pay so much taxes to pay for so much chemicals. But I know a lot of people who wanted to join the rally but were unable to. My friend Aay was told by Aay’s boss that Aay would be sacked if Aay joined the rally. Others had their own reasons. Okay, they pay A LOT of taxes though. So I was angry on their behalf, can?? ๐Ÿ˜€

Saw that there were FRU units at the other end of the road also. So, FRU units at both ends of the road, massive crowd in the middle, both throwing tear gas, one end spraying water cannon, low flying copter throwing down tear gas…

Kena hit by tear gas again. MCH pain. Held on with KY very very tight because crowd rushed to climb up the small hill in the middle of the road near Tung Shin. People yelled out, TENANG TENANG, SLOWLY! Made it up the hill. It began raining very heavily. Some people walked further up, people were generally scattered. Threw evil stare at copter. People passing salt and water again, some just forcing it on you just in case, hahah.

We were soaked to the bone. Just stood at a clearing in the heavy rain. One guy came up next to us and grinned, “Ini panggilnya hujan makbul. Dulu masa BERSIH pertama, kami doa juga. Masa itu juga hujan lebat, hujan makbul. Sekarang sama.” We grinned back.

Still raining cats and dogs. Saw the crowd regathering on the main road. Some people yelled out to come back down from the back hill to join the crowd. We did. Didn’t know what to do at this time, really. Saw FRU units front and back. We slowly walked towards the back (towards Bukit Bintang), pausing in between.

Didn’t realise how the FRU trucks suddenly were very near to us. Rain getting less. They started with the water cannon (with the blue chemical) and tear gas again. Crowd ran. Most ran up towards and into Tung Shin hospital compound, not into the hospital itself. Just ran when we saw road.

Took shelter at one of the outdoor buildings in Tung Shin’s compound. Saw with my own eyes the FRU truck spraying water cannon into Tung Shin direction. Someone took a photo and posted on UberSocial and Twitter. The link to the photo is here, I reproduce it here to show you:

Bersih 2.0 - FRU spraying water cannon into Tung Shin compound
FRU truck spraying water cannon into Tung Shin hospital compound

Yeap, that was what I saw. Not from this angle, but from the bottom right. The FRU truck sprayed towards the entrance area for no less than 10 seconds. Then the truck moved forward, the water cannon continued spraying towards the entire open parking lot (see the photo above, it’s on the left side). Then I couldn’t see the truck anymore. When this was happening, everyone was just plain shocked into silence for a while at the sight. Then people got angry and screamed towards the FRU direction that this was a hospital, etc. See Mkini’s article on the incident, coming from a Tung Shin hospital staff: *click*

2.45pm, I tweeted, FRU shot water cannon into Tung Shin hospital. Patrick Teoh retweeted me (there were lots of retweets and mentions, I couldn’t get to them all at that time), then some dude named @nizran77 mentioned me in a tweet: @patrickteoh @suanie Use your head to tweet or RT.

Wah at that time I was SO angry. Possible leftover anger from the FRU truck incident. A thousand possible replies came to my mind, and I ended up with: I’m at the scene. Are you? Don’t talk so much if you’re not.

5 seconds after I sent that out, I regretted it. He had a right to not support this and say stuff about it, no matter how mean. That is his own doing. Nothing to do with me. So I sent out another tweet: It’s ok. No use arguing and being angry. You’re Malaysian like me ๐Ÿ™‚ The rest of the tweet-conversation is as follows, first is his reply:

– Sorry, I’d rather celebrate my bro’s birthday. Spend time with family. You should join Anwar is his next porn film.
– Don’t want la he’s not my type.
– Thot so, you won’t go for bi. Happy acting!
– Lol you’re funny. Have a good celebration.
– Thanks, a comedy show deserves a good laugh.

Stayed at the area for quite a bit. Was tired and mostly still in a bit of a shock and disbelief. I didn’t see with my own eyes that tear gas was thrown into the hospital. Later when I got home, I saw photos of it, taken by eyewitnesses. Tear gas was fired at the small hill next to Tung Shin, about 10m away from the main building (see: Youtube video). People started to clear the hill – I know because a lot of them climbed down towards Tung Shin via the fence. KY helped them. Chatted with some dudes standing next to me. “Teruk lah dia orang ni…”. I just nodded. Another told me she was there with her friends from the same church, but they were all separated because of the crowd. Spoke to the owner of a famous KL restaurant. Gushed about his restaurant.

BERSIH 2.0 - 2.54pm - FRU outside Tung Shin hospital
2.54pm – Random photo of a man on the phone inside Tung Shin compound, FRU units on the outside

Read on Twitter that Khairy, Anwar, Ambiga and a few others were arrested. Tony Pua tweeted: After standoff at TongShin, Bersih & FRU negotiatd a peaceful dispersal. Happy #Bersih Day!

We walked to the Tung Shin car park. Saw the FRU has retreated slightly. Seemed to be just standing around. Crowd gathered on street again.

BERSIH 2.0 - 3.11pm - zooming in on FRU from Tung Shin hospital
3.11pm – zoomed in on the FRU from Tung Shin carpark

BERSIH 2.0 - 3.11pm - view from Tung Shin hospital parking lot
3.11pm – crowd gathering on road again

People on the road yelled and gestured for those in Tung Shin to go back and join them in the crowd. So we did. From what I understood at that time, a negotiation had been reached and the FRU would allow us to walk towards Jalan Sultan. I’ve no idea where that is. Saw more familiar faces. We were slowly walking towards Puduraya bus terminal direction again. Then suddenly just stopped. So we sat around and chatted and waited under the sun. Burned my cheeks. Padan muka I tak bawa topi.

BERSIH 2.0 - 3.16pm - waiting for negotiations with FRU
3.16pm – waiting waiting waiting

I could see the front part had media with their cameras and microphones. Assumed it was a negotiation in process. Didn’t know who. Found out later that PR’s R.Sivarasa was part of it, and he replied a tweet mentioning him that he was arrested following the breakdown of the negotiations.

BERSIH 2.0 - 3.16pm - media and negotiations with FRU
3.16pm – zoomed in on the FRU with assorted cameras and mics

3.30pm: Suddenly the FRU started spraying water cannon + firing tear gas again! Wah lau, tak henti-henti. The FRU at the other end of the road also did the tear gas thing. The crowd sandwiched in the middle ran back towards Tung Shin. Some may have disappeared off towards Plaza Rakyat, not sure. KY and I ran towards the Tung Shin maternity hospital ground. Was a bit uphill. Sat down for a bit at one of the old benches. Tired max. Then people shouted at us to run! So we did, followed them to a small walkway that leaded to the toilets, I think. Toilet (I think) area on the right. Some people went there. We followed the rest to escape on the left, a small gap towards the back part of the hospital. People at the back was panicking, heard it was police running into the hospital and arresting people. Later a friend from the media who was at the opposite road of Tung Shin confirmed this.

Took turns to climb up a wall + fence separating Tung Shin hospital from SJK(C) Nan Kai on Persiaraan Raja Chulan. My line was a bit slow, mostly girls in front so a bit hesitant, I think. One guy saw me and gestured for me to go to his side, “Mari sini mari mari, cepat sikit” while keeping a lookout at where we came from for the police. KY helped me to climb over. We walked towards the school entrance. Some just sat down, tired and dazed. We exited the school, the school guards just allowed us to go through freely.

Tired max. Tweeted, saw that I last tweeted 50mins ago before running. Walked down the hill, turned into Jalan Ceylon. Saw some tweets that rally was to be ended at 4pm, so everyone should keep to their promise. Called Miguel, thought of wanting to borrow his toilet as he lived nearby. He was at Masjid Jamek. We went to The Social instead. The Social waitress was really nice. There was a group of 4 sitting there, obviously having came from the rally. The girl had ugly bleeding gashes on her knee, she told us that she fell while running. They left. We ate a bit and had ice-cold Coke. Another small group of people went into the restaurant. One of them was a Caucasian, seemed to be from international press. One of them was local, KY chatted with him as we were going off.

Walked to KLCC through Jalan Bukit Bintang, Pavillion, Jalan Kia Peng and KL Convention Centre. Bought grocery at Cold Storage, KLCC. Discovered the KLCC LRT station was closed. Discovered that there was another rally crowd at KLCC, something about Chua Jui Meng talking? Saw police on horses on the road. KLCC guards wouldn’t let us out. Walked to the opposite end, exiting into Jalan Pinang.

Saw Tock’s tweet that he was at Titiwangsa LRT station because all other major city stops were closed, and that was the only way to get back to PJ. Called him back and forth, asking for advise on where we should go. Later he said he had to get a taxi, hahaha. We tried to do the same, but the few taxis didn’t want to go out of KL into PJ. “Roads are blocked lah, roadblocks lah…”

BERSIH 2.0 - 5.37pm - keeping barbed wire on Jalan Pinang
5.37pm – barbed wire outside expensive condo on Jalan Pinang being kept

Finally managed to get a taxi who would take us back to PJ. Shared with 2 other guys. Nice kindly taxi driver zoomed out of KL, took the SMART tunnel, no traffic jam and no roadblock. Reached home: wet, tired, dazed but happy and safe.

Want to read some articles? Nah: here, here and here. Videos? I’m sure you can find them all over the Internet, but my favourite is from Al Jazeera. Other blog posts: here, here, here.

Random thoughts in no particular order:
– Wondering how the tens of thousands of people managed to enter KL?? Just for curiosity sake!
– PR leaders need to get it into their heads that in the 2008 election, the majority of people who voted for you didn’t vote for you, but they voted against BN. Nothing to be proud about, it wasn’t your win, get to work and prove people otherwise! Don’t get too comfortable into thinking that you have so much support (which I know a lot of them think that way).
– Hoping that the middle people will keep to their promise that if PR screws up as much as BN, also BERSIH to them.
– Tear gas effect seems to last a while, throat was still scratchy at night. Wondering how are the people who got more of it, also the water cannon. Must itch like crazy.
– Kerol bought me dinner, yay score!
– Regret didn’t take more photos! Regret taking so many photos in hi-burst mode, now have to open and view and make a decision whether they stay or get deleted.
– Wah we walked more than 10km. Legs damn pain now.
– Disagree with those at the rally scolding those not at the rally: that is not the point, you’re not a hero just because you joined the rally, they are not cowards just because they didn’t or have different views from you.
– Happy to found out later that there were many more friends at the rally, some even stayed in KL hotels the night before just because they didn’t want the possibility of being blocked from entering the city.
– Experienced the generosity, kindness and graciousness of complete strangers, all Malaysians.
– So happy and grateful that KY was there with me.
– Promised myself not to read anything in the mainstream media tomorrow, because I don’t feel the need to be angry and also I was there and I know better, the knowledge of what I saw with my own eyes is sacred. Kept my promise, feeling very peaceful.

So yeah, that’s my account. Quite long isn’t it? I know I’m long-winded. Oh by the way, you may have noticed that I’ve disabled comments for this blog post. Why? Don’t feel like replying comments, good and bad. Moving on with life. Don’t like ar? Say something about it lor. Oh that’s right, you cannot. How does it feel to not have a voice? Sucks pretty bad, right? Angry, right? Frustrating, right? How dare I not let you have a say! Yeah I know the feeling. I’m sure there are other ways to get your message across to me and make me pay attention, but you’ve to be creative lor.

Was that analogy attempt too obvious? Oh right, you can’t say.