I know. I’ve been “missing” since Bersih 3.0.
That was quite a weekend. No, I wasn’t in KL at all but here in good old peaceful Penang. It was such a good day when we started out wearing our yellow tees, Nic and I. I thought I had to run off and buy myself one from Tesco. I didn’t realize I had already bought one yellow tee from Tesco a few months before. Tsk. Tsk. Where is my memory going to?
Nic of course couldn’t find one. The nearest one to yellow was his old, bedraggled Nike ochre brown shirt but he wore it anyway. While driving down to Padang Kota Lama, we spied some policemen along the Jelutong Highway. We were decked out in yellow with yellow wristbands too and my husband turned to me and said, “Maybe we should’ve worn something over our yellow tees.” I looked at him and said,”Why would the police catch us for wearing yellow?”
Actually the policemen didn’t even bother.
It felt very much like a carnival – we even waved at strangers in cars next to us at the traffic lights – all because they wore yellow! There is such thing as a shared camaraderie.
As things turned out, it was rather an uneventful Duduk Bantah. The weather sided with us. While we were all happily sitting on the field of Padang Kota Lama, the skies turned cloudy. I was supposed to help Lerks with the release of some yellow balloons on the stage to represent the demands of Bersih but the “stage” was too crowded.
Many friends were there – I was supposed to meet some but either we couldn’t locate each other in the sea of yellow or it was just too loud to hear my phone ring.
Anyway, when the event ended, we strolled back to our car, parked at Lebuh Victoria. I decided that we ought to have a bite at our favourite Indian restaurant and so we took a detour and went to Ananda Bhawan’s for some fried bee hoon and samosas.
The next day, we ended up at Rainbow Hotel which was actually the old Sandy Bay Paradise for the fundraising hi-tea organized by Aliran. Lerks had cajoled me and in the spirit of Bersih, and since like any starstruck Bersih supporter, I heard Datuk Ambiga and Pak Samad would be special guests and so I dragged Nic along. After all, how often does one get to hear one’s heros speak, right?
While Datuk Ambiga didn’t get arrested, she didn’t manage to arrive either. She was busy in KL with the string of arrests plus given her status, she was much sought after by the media. It was unfortunate that Aliran had picked the date way before the Bersih rally date was decided upon. It wasn’t so much the hi-tea (there’s just so much of hi-tea that one can take anyway) but the idea of being there to support Aliran.
I first read Aliran when I was a teenager. I’d been very impressed with Aliran’s forthright articles and impassioned calls for truth and justice. As an impressionable teenager, I felt very much a rebel. So it seemed right that I’d pay for two seats at a hi-tea where a group of passionate people in their 50s took to the stage and parodied the government of the day using Abba songs! It was entertaining and proved that Malaysians are darn creative when it comes to politics!
But it was a smallish, humble old man who took us all by surprise. Pak Samad, our National Laureate, managed to travel to Penang just for this event despite the incidents the day before.
I had never read Salina, his bestselling novel nor any of his penned fiction. I had vague ideas of the man. He seemed ethereal really – like someone not of this era.
The ballroom of 500 people grew silent when Pak Samad took to the stage. He recounted the events of the day before, saying that he felt most hurt when he was stopped by policemen from going to the mosque, as was his routine. These men were of the same faith as he, and yet, they prevented him from going to the mosque to perform his prayers. He could not understand why a group of Muslims were preventing another Muslim from going to the mosque. That puzzled him most. Despite it all, Pak Samad said he was unfazed and chose to “duduk bantah” right there on the pedestrian bridge, surrounded by policemen.
With a strong voice, he ended by reading out a poem he wrote, a poignant piece about democracy and truthfulness.
(I managed to record him speaking. Note that Pak-Samad-Said speaks Bahasa.)
While hearing him speak, and after that, a few others, I couldn’t help but wonder – this is the most Malaysian Malaysia I’ve ever felt. Many are so torn between leaving this country and staying put. Do we stay and fight on? Or do we take the route of least resistance?
A friend told me that a young man she spoke to recently said that if nothing changes, he would be leaving Malaysia for good. It has come to this.
If you read the mainstream newspapers, you’d think the worst of people calling for Bersih. When Buddhist monks, old aunties, uncles, pakcik and makcik and more all come out in full force to call for cleaner, fairer elections, it really tells me something is so very wrong in our country today.
Are rallies the proper means? I don’t know but I do know that when we’re all tired and frustrated and have no other means to show our displeasure, then rallies would have to do, wouldn’t it?