Thursday, July 28, 2011

Minority with a major role

Taken from the Star Online. It's a noteworthy article.

Sunday July 24, 2011
Minority with a major role
Insight
By Joceline Tan
Christians make up only 9% of the country’s population but their willingness to take political positions in recent years suggests that they will be a factor to reckon with in the new political landscape.
BACK in the 1990s when Datuk Ngeh Koo Ham was still a small fry in DAP politics, his party boss Lim Kit Siang told him that going into politics was not like going to church. The boss further told him he should not manage politics the way the church is managed.
Ngeh, who was then about to become the Perak DAP chief, was seen as too soft and talked like a preacher rather than a politician.
Lim’s implication then was that Ngeh, a devoted Christian, had the tendency to turn the other cheek, a phrase in Christian doctrine that discourages retaliation in the face of aggression whereas politics is often about an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.


Influential voice: The Christian church has had to confront a catalogue of issues over the years and the feeling among many Christians is that their spiritual space is under siege. Picture shows a congregation of the Full Gospel Assembly Church in Jalan Klang Lama.








Ngeh has since gone from small fry to a big name in DAP but he is still as Christian as they get. He is the Bruas MP and Sitiawan assemblyman and his family members have been staunch Methodists for four generations.
But as for that thing about turning the other cheek, well, that was a long time ago. DAP politics has become almost as fierce as that seen in Taiwan, and Ngeh and his equally famous younger cousin Nga Kor Min are known as the most aggressive and combative pair of politicians in Perak.
But Ngeh’s edge over many other Chinese politicians these days is his church background. This is because the Christian vote has become a political factor in the new political landscape.
“Among the non-Muslims, Christians are among the most active and vocal in political advocacy,” said UCSI University don Dr Ong Kian Ming.
A key reason, said Dr Ong, is the way government decisions on religious matters have impacted on them over the last few years, chief of which was the court ruling on what has become known as the Allah issue. The controversy surrounding the High Court decision on the use of the term “Allah” was a tipping point of sorts for the Christian community.
More recently, said Fui Soong, CEO of the Cense think tank, the Christian community has been “completely stirred up” by the politics of Bersih.
Christian sentiment has not been this politicised in years and many congregations had prayed over the Bersih issue while church members and even some pastors were known to have joined the protest. The thing is, Bersih’s call for free and fair elections resonated with biblical concepts of justice and righteousness.
A widely circulated article by Rev Eu Hong Seng, chairman of the National Evangelical Christian Federation (NECF), defended the aims of the protest and said it was “time for the moderates to speak up, be heard and play their role in this nation.”
This weekend, former NECF secretary-general Rev Wong Kim Kong is giving a talk titled “Christian response in the midst of political confusion and uncertainty”.
The online version of the recent Catholic Herald newsletter said a lot about where its editorial team stands politically.
A sampling: GE13 our thanks to Bersih; Police tried to kill Anwar; Firm wins RM620,000 from ‘PM aide’ in cheating case; After Bersih, Pakatan sets eyes on expanding rural votes; Malaysian police arrest four for wearing Bersih T-shirts.
The church, or the Herald, at least, also seemed intent on downsizing the significance of the Prime Minister’s meeting with the Pope, going by the headings of the related news items: Catholics won’t suddenly change; Allah row drags on despite Najib-Pope meet; Holy See and Malaysia agree to establish diplomatic relations; Vatican visit alone won’t solve Christian problems.
All these are a sign of the times, it has been said.
Even the formation of the NECF itself was a consequence of the times. NECF is the umbrella body for some 20 or so Christian denominations, many of which are of the newer variety. They congregated under NECF in 1983 because of issues relating to the Malay language Bible and difficulty in finding suitable sites for worship.
NECF is one of three main Christian umbrella bodies. The other two are the Roman Catholic Church which reports to the Vatican and the Christian Churches of Malaysia (CCM) which comprises denominations such as the Methodist, Anglican, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Syrian Orthodox and so on.
The three groupings claim about a third each of the total Christians in the country. Yet, together, they make up only 9.1% of the country’s population and even a smaller percentage of voters.
“They are not big but they are generally educated, articulate and willing to take positions,” said Dr Ong.
The new middle class
Many of them are professionals and part of the new middle class. They travel, are informed and their economic situation also allows them to put into action what they believe in.
They are vocal, which makes them seem bigger than they actually are and their views are easily disseminated because there is a pulpit to preach from and a captive congregation to preach to. They are also into social networking where they take their message far and wide.
In Peninsular Malaysia, they are too widely spread out to be the king-maker in an election, except perhaps in Selangor.
The parliamentary areas of PJ Utara and PJ Selatan, said Dr Ong, have the highest percentage of Christians in Peninsular Malaysia. Christians make up 20% of the population and 14% of voters in these two seats, which fell to DAP and PKR.
In the 2004 and 2008 general elections, St Francis Xavier Church in Petaling Jaya invited the opposing candidates to address church members. Barisan Nasional’s Datuk Donald Lim had won in PJ Selatan in 2004, but by 2008 the mood had changed and although Lim’s challenger was the rather unremarkable and wooden Lee Hoy Sian of PKR, the audience’s hostilities were directed at Lim.
The bulk of Christian Malaysians are still to be found in Sabah and Sarawak. Christians make up 40% of the people in Sarawak and over 25% in Sabah.
The Sibu by-election in 2010 provided the first inkling of what could happen when the Christian vote moved en masse. DAP deployed its Christian leaders like Ngeh, Teresa Kok and Hannah Yeoh to campaign among Christian groups in Sibu; PAS MPs like Khalid Samad went to meet church goers after the Sunday service; and Datuk Seri Nizar Jamaluddin received a standing ovation for attending a forum for Christian voters.
“It was a big gesture on the part of PAS. I don’t recall an Umno MP doing that,” said Soong.
The Sibu by-election was where the game plan changed.
But no one comes close to Sarawak Chief Minister Tan Sri Taib Mahmud in terms of connecting with the Christians. He officiated at the opening of a new Catholic church at the height of campaigning for the Sarawak election, speaks openly of having studied Bible knowledge and is not afraid to enter a church.
Comparatively, Barisan does not have as many politicians who identify closely with the Christians, or Muslims leaders who are willing to engage the Christians. The Christian Kadazandusun leaders come closest to being the Christian face of Barisan.
Cabinet Minister and Upko president Tan Sri Bernard Dompok is one of them. He is Catholic and when he is at home in Penampang, he attends prayer meetings, supports the Monfort Youth Training Centre and helps raise funds for church groups.
Dompok has emerged as a credible leader among the Christian Kadazandusuns and he was a natural choice to accompany the Prime Minister to meet the Pope.
“Christians want to see genuine respect for our religion. In Sabah, especially, we have to be very sensitive about religious issues because people here are not afraid of opposition politics,” said Dompok.
Or as Soong put it: “The Christians used to be more complacent when they were less challenged by the political landscape. But so much has changed.”
The Christians have had to confront a catalogue of issues over the years and the feeling among many of them is that their spiritual space is under siege. It began with misgivings over issues of conversions and body-snatching and culminated in the Allah issue.
“Things like that made people decide they have to assert their political rights to defend their religion,” said NECF’s Wong.
If it is any consolation to the Barisan, the Christian vote also overlaps to some extent with the Chinese vote which the ruling coalition already has problems with. But a point to note is that the Christian vote also comprises Indians and other minority races.
“Some of the older Christians are still afraid of PAS. The younger people have less hang-ups. They have seen that PAS has been trying to be more pragmatic,” said Dr Ong.
A point of no return has been reached for many of them. They are undeterred even though they know that PAS will never abandon its Islamic agenda.
Nor do they seem worried by survey findings which show that young Muslims support the Quran rather than the Constitution as the highest law, that an overwhelming majority agree with whipping for those guilty of alcohol consumption and cutting off hands for convicted thieves.
The Christians are too small in numbers and, in the peninsula, too spread out to be considered a powerful vote.
But, said Dr Ong, they are influential because they know their rights and have become very vocal about it.
As Puah Chu Kang would say, don’t pray pray (play play) with these people. They may be a minority but they are a part of the emerging third force.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Bishop says Najib's remarks on Christians puzzling

This is an article taken from MalaysiaKini, which may be of interest to our readers.

written by Terence Netto
Jul 23, 11 7:30pm

Catholic Bishop Dr Paul Tan Chee Ing today expressed puzzlement that Prime Minister Najib Razak could, after a trip to see the Pope Benedict in Rome earlier this week, still speak like as if “the sincerity of Malaysian Christians in their desire to dialogue with Muslims is subject to proof.”
“I don't want to sound carping and querulous especially after the announcement of diplomatic ties between Malaysia and the Vatican but the prime minister's latest remarks, to my mind, are nothing if not puzzling,” said the titular head of Roman Catholics in the Melaka-Johor diocese.
Bishop Paul, who is concurrently president of the Catholics' Bishops Conference of Malaysia, was referring to the Najib's remarks in Sepang yesterday that were directed at Christians.
“We wish to tell our friends, the Malaysian Christians … that if they respect us, we will also respect them,” the PM was reported by Malaysian Insider to have said.
“This is puzzling - painful even - coming from a leader who has just been to see the Pope and has announced the establishment of diplomatic ties between the Vatican and Malaysia,” said Bishop Paul Tan.
“It is as if the loyalty of Christians to the constitution of the country which states that Islam is the official region of the federation is in doubt and the sincerity of Christians in their desire to dialogue with Muslims is subject to proof,” he asserted.
“Begging the prime minister's pardon, I feel matters are the other way round. It is his government's fidelity to the freedom of religion guarantees in the constitution that is in doubt, not Christians' respect for Islam,” argued Bishop Paul Tan.
“Our subscription to the constitution ipso facto is respect for Islam as the official religion of the country. The Roman Catholics Church is a founding member of the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism (MCCBCHST). 
“The initiative to form the council in 1984 was a reflection of the desire of Christians to dialogue with other religions,” he reminded.
Meeting with Pope a window dressing
Bishop Paul Tan said Muslims don't want to be part of the MCCBCHST “for reasons better known to them and which I don't want to comment.”
“Yet, after our oft-repeated loyalty to the constitution and our efforts at promoting inter-religious dialogue, it is our sincerity that is subject to proof, judging from the prime minister's remarks,” said Bishop Paul Tan.
“I take no relish in saying this but say it I must: this invidious double standards in judgment of the sincerity of Christians has gone so long that if unchallenged it would become the conventional wisdom,” he asserted.
“The prime minister's trip to the Vatican, as I had feared, was so much window dressing - his latest remarks are the confirmation,” he said.
Bishop Paul Tan said: “At this point, superfluous as it may seem, I want to reaffirm the loyalty of Malaysian Christians, particularly of Roman Catholics, to the constitution which upholds Islam as the official religion of the federation.
“Also, I want to reiterate our unwavering desire to dialogue with Muslims whom I welcome as brothers in our common humanity. May we not be wise above measure and sobriety but we must cultivate truth in charity.”




Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Movement of the Moderates by Rev. Eu Hong Seng

We received this Statement written by Rev. Eu Hong Seng, the Chairman of NECF Malaysia putting down his thoughts on the recent Bersih rally.
This article was written primarily to guide members of NECF in their prayers and in their journey as responsible non-partisan Christian citizens. However, for us as Christians in Malaysia, it is also a good encouragement to us and for us to join hands in prayer for our nation.
May the Lord bless, Rev Eu Hong Seng, Chairman NECF Malaysia for his spiritual wisdom and discernment.




Movement of the Moderates 




MALAYSIA continues to face some of her darkest moments as a nation. Over the 
past months, the lack of political will to mitigate racial and religious intolerance has 
naturally given rise to ideologues, extremists, and radicals. All these are no different 
in essence from the keris-wavers and cow-head trampling demonstrators we saw a 
few years ago. 

How one can rant and rave and threaten bloodshed and yet walk the streets a free 
man, whilst those who merely wear yellow T-shirts can be arrested, is most 
incomprehensible and unfortunate. 

Last week’s Bersih2.0 rally is a culmination of frustrations of the nation’s citizenry, 
and I suspect this marks the beginning of a movement of the moderates. 

There is some truth in the government’s reasoning that rallying “is not our culture.” 
But when tens of thousands of ordinary peace-loving people persist to take to the 
streets, besides the many thousands more who could not go due to the blockades 
and gridlock in the capital city, then it is incumbent on all of us to do some soul- 
searching. 

The arguments for the legitimacy or otherwise of the 


Bersih2.0 rally reminds me of the famous “Lady Justice”. 
This iconic figure wears a blindfold over her eyes while 
lifting a sword in one hand and carrying a pair of scales on 
the other. Symbolically, she represents fair and equal 
administration of the law - without prejudice, avarice, 


corruption, fear or favor. 

If our leaders had likewise worn a blindfold1 and were 


asked to objectively judge the calls of concerned citizens 
and assess their conduct at the rally, their response would 
not have been so immature. 

In many parts of the world, any group or government 


espousing to“clean the electoral roll,” “stop corruption,” 
“use indelible ink” - would have been praised as being proactive, decent, fair-minded, 


honest, rational. Strangely in Malaysia, when some people ask for these very same 

practices, they are “demonized”, simply because they are “not government”.  What 

we witnessed on 9 July 2011 was the epitome of crude partisan politics. 



Personally, I think the demands of Bersih2.0  – for electoral reforms and the right to 
have a peaceful march - were not only reasonable, but impartial as well. Bersih2.0 
was not pro-opposition but pro-democracy. 

The people of Malaysia are maturing in democracy and we can no longer tolerate 
unfair practices, corruption, vote-buying and otherwise. Being “blindfolded” like Lady 
Justice also means we are color blind, i.e. it does not matter if you wear red T-shirts 
or have green banners, nor does it matter if you are yellow, black or brown-skinned. 

A right is a right. A wrong is a wrong regardless of whether it is committed by the 
government or the opposition or whomsoever. 

I know the Church in this nation to be a peace-loving people. But more importantly, 
we are a people of the Book and our Book teaches us principles and values, rights 
and wrongs. 

We remember Christ's mandate to love our neighbors as ourselves and not conduct 
ourselves in an un-Christian manner. At all times, we want to be conciliatory and be 
agents of peace to ensure harmony. 

We must resist the temptation to say and do things that are escalatory and 
antagonistic. When highly confrontational tactics begin to replace more co-operative 
approaches, conflicts escalate and more extreme personalities maneuver to become 
leaders of the conflict groups. 

And when this polarization degenerates till so much that is said and done makes no 
sense, we then need to remind ourselves that Lady Justice, though blindfolded, is 
“not gagged.” This is where the silent majority and the Church must speak up. 
Scriptures mandate us to open our mouth.2 

Moderates must speak up to check the damage intended by hard-liners and ensure 
that democracy is not hijacked. 

We do not subscribe to “political subversion” but the Church has the responsibility to 
stand up against the fanatics and hypocrites bent on corrupting the moral fiber of our 
people and destroying our democratic nation. 

There is nobody to save Malaysia except Malaysians. It is time for the moderates to 
speak up, be heard and play their role in this nation. 
Rev Eu Hong Seng 
NECF Malaysia, Chairman 


This article is written to guide members of NECF in their prayers and in their journey as responsible 
non-partisan Christian citizens 

_________________________________________________                                                 


Remember, the blindfold on Lady Justice represents objectivity, not blindness i.e. she is blindfolded, 






Proverbs 31:8 - Open your mouth for the speechless, ....  9 Open your mouth, judge righteously, And 

plead the cause of the poor and needy. NKJV 

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Bersihlah Negaraku! This is Ee May's Bersih story


This is another well written 9.07 story

Bersihlah Negaraku! This is Ee May's Bersih story

by EeMay Lee on Tuesday, July 12, 2011 at 3:54am

My Bersih fight started not on 709. It started as I sat helplessly in front of the computer, watching the friends I worked with at the NGO Empower in March, the secretariat to Bersih  being marched into the Black Maria by the police. Arrested. Detained. Locked up. The entire office I volunteered at being raided a week and a half before the rally.

I cried. These were girls my age! And it was the day I was supposed to go to the Empower office to collect Bersih tshirts! 

Somehow, when you watch your own friends being arrested, it is not the same as reading about it in the news. It is a tight slap across your face. A wake up call. You realise you can't just sit back and do nothing as you watch this injustice affecting your own friends.

I had a friend who made fun of me for being so Bersih-centric a week before 709. But I knew deep down inside that after you watch your own friends being arrested, something stirs within you. You know you can no longer afford to be silent. Something within you mandates you, forces you to speak up.

You know you need to arise.

******************************
Two days before Bersih: I had horrible jitters. I don't mind being detained. I don't mind water canons and tear gas. But I do NOT want to be injured! There were times I just broke out in panic attacks, so afraid of what was to come. Would I be safe??? Would I be the one to sacrifice something I couldn't yet give up? 

But I remembered the cry of Teoh Beng Hock's sister for Malaysians to seek justice. It broke my heart. And I knew that for change to happen in Malaysia, democratic practices first had to find its firm ground via properly administered elections.

I was doing this for Teoh Beng Hock. And the other Teoh Beng Hocks we never even got to know about.

************************
Friday noon, mum dropped me off at the KTM station and I took the train up.

Personal details had been given to lawyers. Guidelines, handbooks and legal advice had been read up.

In the train, I thought to myself, "Man...Ee May, what have YOU gotten yourself into???? SERIOUSLY????" And I honestly didn't know the answer.

But I knew it was me to stand up for what is right. Even if I was standing alone. I just HAD to do it. 

***************************
I was the first to get to the hotel. Of which 12 other people came.

It was a funny experience. Most of the time I opened the door for someone, it was the first time I met these people, the people I was going to journey with.

For example, I met Indra only because I saw a message he posted on Elaine's wall whether she was going for Bersih. I immediately jump in and asked him to join us. We have never met before. And he brought two other friends along.

We bunked out in two rooms. 

************************
The day of 709, we packed our tear gas amo. Baking soda water, towels soaked with vinegar, salt.

We hid our yellow shirts in the security box. We heard that police may come to raid empty hotel rooms. We dare not even bring the yellow shirts out with. Didn't want to be arrested along the way.

We slowly crept out from our hotel in twos and threes. We passed by at least 100 police just on our way to Petaling Street from the hotel.

*****************************
KL city centre had an eery weird atmosphere that day. The ghost-like streets, the deserted walkways.

There were only five different groups of people that were present- the heavy police presence, the media, the confused tourists, the bar council lawyers and of course the protesters. This left a weird funny dynamic to KL city that day.

We loitered around Petaling Street waiting for what was to come. Noticed groups of people looking exactly like us. Bersih people. Spots of them. Congregated everywhere. But nothing to bring us together.

Yet.

Until from a distance, we suddenly heard the echo of chants. Of marching. As it comes nearer, and it becomes louder.

Reformasi! Reformasi! You hear it. In awe.

And finally the march of people appear. And what a scene to behold!

PROUD BERSIH PEOPLE WALKING WITH THEIR HEADS HELD HIGH! Tearing through the police tapes. People carrying yellow flowers, yellow balloons, the jalur gemilang.

Peole holding up the BERSIH t shirt proudly up high! What was once something to be hidden, to be banned, to mean detention. Finally finding its liberation and dignity amongst these group of proud marchers.

People of different colours, tribes, languages, religions and ages. All marching in unison, as one. Shouting "VIVA RAKYAT! VIVA BERSIH! HIDUP RAKYAT! HIDUP BERSIH! BANGKIT! BANGKIT RAKYAT!" 

It was a scene I will never ever forget and will continue to hold so dearly within my heart.

"WHAT AN AMAZING ENERGY!" I cried out to my friends as we cheered at the parade-like rally.

I loved how we could see the different groups slowly marching! OOOH! THE DAYAKS WITH THEIR HEAD GEARS!!! ANd oohhhh!! That's the group of the Sarawakians!!!! WITH THEIR FLAGS!!! And ohhh the PENANGITES ARE COMING!!! ANd ohhh..those are the christians!!! And this must be the Muslims!!!!"

EVeryone marched ever so proudly, knowing that they came from different backgrounds, but were all there for the same purpose, the same goal- for our voices to be heard.

It felt as if it was an Independence Day parade. Except this wasn't the celebration of independence from colonial powers. But the independence of the rakyat's voices.

We could no longer be stifled.

*****************
We joined the march as the wave swept by and carried along the pockets of people standing by. I was just so happy to be a part of it. We ended up congregating at the Maybank tower.

I met a group of neneks in their 70s from Kedah. Wow. I could not believe it! That these neneks made their way all the way from Kedah just to attend this rally. I was overwhelmed!

I met an Australian and two Canadian tourists. "Do you know whats happening?" I asked. "Yeah! BERRRRRSEEIH!" replied the Aussie. "I was just tear-gased at Deiiiteiiran Merdeiiika!" Wow, even foreigners were supporting our cause! And as soon as they were tear-gased at Dataran Merdeka, they rushed to join the crowd at Petaling Street.

I saw uncles and aunties with yellow carnations on their heads. I saw a man without legs.

I saw people like me. I saw people different from me.

Everyone was proud to be there. They weren't afraid. We were all together. United. And as Esther aptly put, "Something Najib and all his 1Malaysia campaigns could never invoke."

A PAS leader with a loud speaker called out and said that now was the time to don our yellow shirts. And around me, I astoundedly watched as people reached into their bags for their yellow shirts. No longer hidden. No longer afraid of intimidation. People weren't fearful of being seen in it any longer.

Fear that the authorities tried to imprint in us had lost its place.

*********************
Soon, the water canons and tear gas struck. What were mere moments before a celebratory atmosphere of the liberation of the people's voices turned into one of stifling by other forces.

Of literal suffocation.

I always imagined tear gas as one just of pain and discomfort. I never thought it was one of torture.

It deprives you of your basic need- oxygen. And as your lungs heave and wrench desperately for air, you gasp in poison instead. 

You try to run to fight for air but there's too many people and you are smashed in between the crowds amd the wall.

Another tear gas explodes..and people start climbing up walls like insects scurrying away. Desperate, choking, suffocating. Your eyes hurt like mad and you can't see where you're running. At the same time you are drowning in open air, scrambling for the first inhalation of fresh oxygen. 

My first thoughts: despair because as I screamed out for help, I look around and realised no one could help me. They were all suffering the same way I did.

I saw people choking till their mouths all foamed.

I was ready to give up myself. To fall and lose consciousness when my friend grabbed me and helped me to fresh air up a slope.

I took a while to recover from the tear gas attack and ended up sprawled at the side of the road, heaving and gasping for air.

Many people, all ages, all races, ran up to help me. I had a dozen old Malay uncles offering salt. "Makan garam! Makan!" I had 15 different water bottles given to me. I had 10 people help fan me. Another lady took a wet towel and wiped my whole face.

Another guy gave me his astma inhaler. "I don't know how to use this" I cried. "I'll teach you." "PARAMEDIK!!! PARAMEDIK!!!!" A group of them rushed to my aide. Immediately administering basic first aid. My shoes and jacket was taken off. Massages given, and lots of empathy. 

I was so astounded and overwhelmed with the compassion and kindness of Malaysians, looking past race and religion. No one cared. All were just so ready to help me and do all they could for me. I was so touched. For once, I was so happy to know what it's like to live in a truly colourblind 1Malaysia. One that Moral books and Moral lessons could never show you how and prepare you for in the event of when it doeshappen- you're just knocked off with amazement.

But it wasn't long before the cries of the police coming were heard. "CEPAT! CEPAT! POLIS DAH DATANG!!!"

Oh no! We all rushed up the slope and I couldn't run much. Entirely deserted,  paramedics, friend and I sought refuge at a nearby shed. No one else was around.

Soon the police arrived. " GO!!! LEAVE!! OR I WILL ARRESTS ALL OF YOU! SKARANG!!!" the leader shouted. I started to get very terrified as I was still having trouble breathing and was gasping and heaving for air. I thought the police would understand but he did not. The paramedics pleaded for me. "Tolong! Tolonglah! Dia sakit!" "Skarang sakitlah! TAPI TADI TAK SAKIT! PERGI SKARANG! KALAU TAK SAYA AKAN ARREST YOU.... NOW!!!!" 

I just started to cry. Here I was, needing the basic thing I needed to live, to breathe. And the police head had no compassion to give me that. Was this what my countrymen was capable of? Cruel heartlessness? 

As I started to cry silently and heaved and gasped for air, the other police officers' faces completely dropped and looked at me worriedly. Finally, after the paramedics stated that they were medics, only did the police head's demeanour entirely change. "Oh...kenapa tak cakap lebih kuat!!! SORRY!!!" 

Wow. If I wasn't with the paramedics, I would have been arrested. While gasping for air.

The police left us. But another group of police came. A Malay pakcik said that we had better run because this group may not give us a chance. So we did.

We ran across the field in the rain and passed an office building. The security officer there hinted to us (I was the only Chinese within a group of Malays) to go ambil doa at the surau. So I told my new Malay friends that perhaps I could also tudung and doa kepada tuhan saya in the surau. I was too traumatized by the police and tear gas, I didn't think I could take another beating.

So I hid there with a borrowed selendang as a tudung until the coast was clear and took my time to recover from my breathing difficulties.

When the paramedics left the surau after their doa, I thanked them for their sweet kindness towards me and made them remember to add me on facebook.

"Kita jumpa pergi minum teh sama-sama kat Bangi, ya!"

**************************************

My friends and I managed to meet up again in the hotel a few hours later. We exchanged stories. Some ran to Tung Shin hospital where tear gas were fired into and police charged inside to arrest even people sitting in the hospital. 

Another friend was at KL Sentral and told us how the police double trapped them at the escalator. Firing one tear gas above and as the people scarmbled to rush down the escalator, below, another FRU appeared to fire another tear gas there. Trapping the people from both sides. Where children were in the midst.

Another friend told us how they sought refuged in a church. And how a female white tourist came in, wailing, entirely traumatised by her experience of the tear gas. 

We couldn't believe the stories we heard.

***************************

I wished I didn't. I wish I didn't hide in that surau even after I had recovered. Terrified. My voice successfully quelled by the authorities that wanted it so.

I wish I charged out right again and joined the other protesters all the way to KLCC. 

I wished I wore yellow. And wasn't intimidated to wear it proud.

But I know I did the little that I could. I took my stand on 709. 

And I know I am no longer afraid the next time I am called to. Because after you've experienced it once, you fear less. 

Of the tear gas, the arrests, the intimidation. 

Because the amazing unity and energy of your other Malaysian comrades who fight on with you, strangers that nothing but share the same land you were born in come in loving sweep, carries you on.

I realised at the rally that you just cannot sit quietly comfortably when you see other malaysians fight for your rights and your future. People from all races, religion. Age. Old malay neneks and datuks. Chinese aunties. Old indian uncles. Young uni students. All suffereing, risking as others sit comfortably at home. 

It reminded me of what I wrote only a few days earlier:

We need to fight for a change and throughout history, fighting for change has never been cheap. In history, a whirlwind of change swept at the tipping point when the people could no longer be brutalized into fear and compliance by those who control them and crack down harshly on them. When the MASSES SPOKE OUT! There is power in the people and power in the masses!

 Malaysians, 709 is not the end. We need to fear less. And fight more!

People must rise up!

Malaysians, the time to rise up is now!

Friday, July 15, 2011

BERSIH 2.0 - Was it worth it? by Abdul Haleem

This is an account taken from the writer's Facebook Page : http://www.facebook.com/notes/abdul-haleem/bersih-20-was-it-worth-it/252906668059703

BERSIH 2.0 - Was it worth it?

by Abdul Haleem on Monday, July 11, 2011 at 8:34am
Was it worth it?

It has been twelve days since I have seen my wife, my son (who has just turned three) and my one month old daughter, sweet little Lana girl. If I don’t go down to see them this weekend, I will not see them for at least another week. Three days ago my wife and I celebrated our 4th wedding anniversary, whilst we were apart. I had a choice to go back to Penang and be with them for the weekend, but instead, I chose to go down to Kuala Lumpur to support Bersih 2.0.
I arrived in KLIA at about 10:30 in the morning. The airport looks eerily deserted. As I traveled light, I literally ran to get an ERL ticket and jumped onto the train. As my excitement grew, I looked around to see KL appear as a ghost town. Even on Hari Raya holidays, you’ll see more cars in Sg Besi Highway compared to this particular Saturday.

Walking out from KL Sentral, I was shocked to see a huge presence of FRU units and police. I assumed this is to ‘manage possible demonstrates who might alight in KL Sentral and walk towards Masjid Negara.’ I proceed to my hotel which is just across from KL Sentral. Coming out from the elevator I was greeted by two cops who are stationed there. I told them I am here to check in and they let me pass. I did notice more polis in the lobby but I was still na├»vely thinking that they were only there for general safety. I checked in, went to my room and changed into something more comfortable, (not the official t-shirt though) and walked back to KL Sentral. I was surprised when I was still managed to get a ticket to Masjid Jamek.

As soon as I alight in Masjid Jamek LRT station – I could feel the atmosphere. The party is definitely ON. I remember thinking to myself that being alone may not help at all. Thus, I seek a group to join. Within 5 minutes, I noticed a crowd of about 30 people gathering at the junction of Amanah Rakyat Building. As I join them the leader starts to give a speech.  A journalist told me it is Dr.Hatta Ramli from PAS who is giving the speech and he will lead this group to Stadium Merdeka.

We manage to walk to Menara Maybank  without any trouble. By now the group size grew to hundreds, as we are now joined by other political figures such as Tony Pua from DAP.
Suddenly, without any warning, teargas and chemical laced water were shot and sprayed towards us.  The effects were immediate and were more than I could bear. As this is my first face off with such hostility, like many hundreds around me, we ran to seek shelter. We climbed the stalled escalator towards the main entrance of Menara Maybank and worn out and almost defeated, we crumbled to the floor for a decent breath. The teargas effects were agonizing and thanks to the expertise of FRU chemical unit, the chemicals were burning my skin. There were number of Makciks hand in hand with their teenage daughters. Although people were outraged, we remained civil and this was when I learned my first two lessons of the day.
  1. Despite the anger, frustration and pain, all of us were civil. Very civil. I instinctively knew that it wasn’t a good time to break and thrash everything that was in front of us. Although vandalism is part of mass rallies everywhere else, it wasn’t here. Not one person vandalized anything.
  2. True unity is in action. People genuinely care for each other regardless of ethnic, religious or status differences. Everyone was ONE. Malaysians. With all due respect Mr.Najib – this is 1Malaysia with substance. Not the kind of crowd with free 1Malaysia tshirts waving the Malaysian flag whilst thinking of the free food which will be provided later.
Was it worth it to join the rally? Definitely, I have no doubt in my mind. I felt a sense of solidarity with all those around me, in a way which is almost unexplainable.

After 30 minutes of a break and recharging myself with a can of Redbull, I seek to rejoin the masses.  I found a huge group just in front of our newly renovated Pudu Bus Terminal.  By then, the marchers had already experienced rounds of tear gas and trigger happy water cannons. I watched in shock, as water ran down the street like a flash flood. Somehow, I manage to sneak into the crowd.

Someone told me how MP Sivarasa was negotiating with the polis and whilst he was negotiating, I had the pleasure of experiencing something, I will never forget for the rest of my life. Despite the drizzling rain, the uncertainties and the risk of being fired by another round of teargas, the crowd spontaneously starts to sing Negaraku. It was such an awesome moment in my life, that I had goosebumps.

 Later MP Sivarasa informed us that the police were allowing us to march on one side of the road towards Jalan Sultan. Deep down inside, I was like ‘yeah right’. Less than 10 minutes later, he and couple of other negotiators were whisked away by the polis (they were later arrested) and all hell broke loose. Rounds of tear gas and sprays from the water cannon, force the majority of the group into the Tung Shin hospital compound. I initially thought that it was a safe bet to be in a hospital compound. Boy oh boy, it was a perfect trap for us. Yes, they did shoot tear gas inside the parking compound of the hospital.

 Being cornered with nowhere to run, not less than 30 guys and girls were arrested, including me.  I was handcuffed using some sort of cable tie (which I use wildly in my job), but the only difference being, this one is much larger. The cop who drags me from Tung Shin Hospital compound all the way to Menara Maybank was very civil, but not the FRU personnels, who were standing along the street. At least five of them make nasty remarks about my disability.   I was grouped with not less than 50 other detainees in Menara Maybank waiting for the famous Black Maria.  At this moment, I learned my next two lessons whilst waiting for the Black Maria.  
  1. I first met the now most famous Bersih 2.0 figure, ‘Aunty Bersih’, whilst the crowd were singing Negaraku. She sang along. Despite her fragile state and clearly suffering from earlier teargas effects, she holds on to the flowers. Determined and courageous, just like Ambiga.  This aunty came around to the staging area where we have been held up and with full respect, she bows in front us – the official detainees.  It was so touching. I learned that this is a fight for everyone. This is a fight for the future of our kids. The fight to save this beautiful nation.
  2. Not less than 5 good Samaritans came around and passed us fresh bottled waters. They bought it and brought it to us. For some of them whose hands had been tied at their back, they even hold up the bottle whilst they took a sip. Who are they, politicians? Nope. Suhakam? Nope. Just another MALAYSIAN. I learned that this is who we are. What we are. Utusan, Ibrahim Ali and their fellow goons surely have no idea what is like to be on the ground.
 Was it worth it to join the rally? Hell yeah!
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   
After being help up for almost an hour, we were taken to Pulaupol. Man, the place has been setup for a carnival. A number of makeshift tents, mobile lavatories, temporary surau’s and being Malaysians, buffets included. This is surely a good PR job by PDRM. My estimation is not less than 500 detainees in there at this time.  It was tough and as this is my first time being detained, I was calm, as I knew that being tense will not help anything at all. Our MYKAD’s has been taken away. We were allowed to use the lavatory and Surau’s but not allowed to use the mobile phone. Despite this, I continued to text my brother and other friends. I was informed that the lawyers were not allowed into the Pulaupol compound. Within an hour, all the formalities were done. No statement was taken.

The chaos really began when the cops started a roll call to return us to the MYKAD. Imagine a guy with loud speaker calling out name after name. Somehow, this is a blessing in disguise. During this roll call, every time a non Malay name comes up – the crowd cheers for him loudly, followed by a big round of applause. At about 8 pm, my name was called and I hitched a ride on PDRM buses which ferries the released ‘detainess’ back to KL Sentral. I got off just outside the main entrance of Pulaupol and joined my brother and his colleagues. 

A few minutes later – something unexpected happened. Harris Ibrahim was walking out calmly from the crowd at the main entrance of Pulaupol. I can’t help myself but call out his name loudly, I went up to him and embrace him.  I did see the kind of joy in his eyes knowing all his efforts had paid off and I am sure he could see in my eyes the kind of satisfaction I had, because I had joined this rally.

Was it worth it? – Do you need to ask me again? – What’s next my fellow brothers and sisters?