Monday, July 25, 2011

Minority with a major role

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.

Ngeh: His edge over many other Chinese politicians is his strong church background.

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.

Soong: ‘Christians have been completely stirred up by the politics of Bersih’

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.

Ong: ‘The Christian community is generally educated, articulate and willing to take positions’

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.


Sunday, July 24, 2011

Najib’s hypocrisy

Saturday, 23 July 2011 Combat

By Ronald Benjamin

The statement by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak that Christians have to respect Islam before they are respected is disappointing because one would have expected the prime minister to speak in an inclusive tone since he articulated the importance of a global coalition of moderates in his overseas trip.

A leader who sincerely believes in moderation would have said that it is time for Muslims and Christians to work together to promote peace, justice and prosperity in the country.

It is this type of statement that would have been most welcome instead of demanding respect on an imaginary assumption that Christians have no respect for Islam.

How does he come to this type of conclusion? What is the evidence to show that Christians have no respect for Islam?

The prime minister, from time to time, has shown that he is incapable of courage and honesty in dealing with religious matters as that would make him look weak among extremist elements in his party.

This has made him a weak leader who is not capable of confronting extremism in his own party besides having a poor understanding of human rights. It reveals elements of poor governance.

The question is why he has chosen a right-wing tone in conceptualising the relationship between Muslims and Christians, after establishing diplomatic relations with Vatican?

Is it to show to right-wing groups that he is a firm Muslim leader in dealing with Christians, and diplomatic relations with Vatican have no bearing on current issues such as the usage of the word Allah in the Bible? Would this type of tone start the ball rolling for upcoming propaganda for the general election in ensuring the Muslim-majority vote?

The characteristics of credible leadership are its ability to dialogue and proactively solve problems and take a principled and inclusive position on issues of great importance that has major implications on the future of the country in terms of the common good, and not take the country towards destruction by playing to the tune of influential extremist voices.

A resolution on the usage of the word Allah in the Bible is a test of Najib’s governance on whether common good would triumph over exclusivity.

The so-called slogan of a coalition of moderates should start in one’s own backyard.


Friday, July 22, 2011

Fake Apple Store in China

Are you listening, Steve Jobs?

To address the main issue that people have been getting all bent out of shape about: the stores I photographed do not appear to be authorized Apple sellers. The list of resellers in Kunming that Apple’s website has published does not include the locations that I photographed. An employee at the main store photographed has confirmed that it is not an authorized reseller. Apple itself has confirmed that it is a fake.

I will not be publishing on this blog the addresses of the stores I photographed – if you live in China, you’ll understand why. Feel free to email me at birdabroadblog [AT] gmail [DOT] com.


The Western news media is replete with pithy descriptions of the rapid changes taking place in China: China has the world’s fastest growing economy. China is undergoing remarkable and rapid change. This represents a unique moment for a society changing as quickly as China.

You probably read such things in the paper every day – but if you have never been to China, I’m not sure you know quite what this means on a mundane level. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere on this blog, in the 2+ years that RP and I have been in our apartment, much of the area around us has been torn down, rebuilt, or gutted and renovated – in some cases, several times over. I had the thought, only half-jokingly, that when we returned from a couple months abroad, we might not be able to recognize our apartment building. Or that it might not be there at all.

As it turns out, my fears were baseless – our scrappy little home remains. The neighborhood, however, has definitely kicked it up a notch or seven. Starbucks has opened not one, but THREE branches (that I encountered) within a 10 minute walk of one another. An H&M has opened across from our apartment building. These are the kinds of major Western brands that were previously only represented in Kunming by fast food chains like McDonald’s and KFC. Our neighborhood has quickly become the swanky shopping center of the city.

So when we strolled down a street a few blocks from our house a couple weeks ago, I was only sort of surprised to see this new place, one that any American of my generation can probably recognize instantaneously:

It’s an Apple store!

Or is it?

RP and I went inside and poked around. They looked like Apple products. It looked like an Apple store. It had the classic Apple store winding staircase and weird upstairs sitting area. The employees were even wearing those blue t-shirts with the chunky Apple name tags around their necks.

We proceeded to place a bet on whether or not this was a genuine Apple store or just the best ripoff we had ever seen – and to be sporting, I bet that it was real.

I know, you guys are laughing: an Apple store in Kunming? No one who doesn’t know me personally has ever heard of Kunming before. Kunming is the end of the Earth. It’s all true – but seriously, China warps your mind into believing that anything is possible, if you stay here long enough. When we went back to this store 5 days later and couldn’t find it, having overshot by two blocks, I seriously thought that it had simply been torn down and replaced with a bank in the mean time – hey, it’s China. That could happen.

You have already guessed the punchline, of course: this was a total Apple store ripoff. A beautiful ripoff – a brilliant one – the best ripoff store we had ever seen (and we see them every day). But some things were just not right: the stairs were poorly made. The walls hadn’t been painted properly.

Apple never writes “Apple Store” on it’s signs – it just puts up the glowing, iconic fruit.

The name tags around the necks of the friendly salespeople didn’t actually have names on them – just an Apple logo and the anonymous designation “Staff”. And of course, Apple’s own website will tell you that they only have a few stores in Beijing and Shanghai, opened only recently; Apple famously opens new stores painstakingly, presumably to assure impeccable standards and lots of customer demand.

Is this store a copy of one of those in Beijing? A copy of a copy in another Chinese city? A copy of a copy of a copy?! While you’re pondering that, bear in mind: this is a near-perfect ripoff of a store selling products that were almost unknown when we first came to China. My white MacBook was likely to draw only blank stares or furrowed brows as I sat gnashing my teeth trying in vain to get a piece of Chinese software to run on it.

Being the curious types that we are, we struck up some conversation with these salespeople who, hand to God, all genuinely think they work for Apple. I tried to imagine the training that they went to when they were hired, in which they were pitched some big speech about how they were working for this innovative, global company – when really they’re just filling the pockets of some shyster living in a prefab mansion outside the city by standing around a fake store disinterestedly selling what may or may not be actual Apple products that fell off the back of a truck somewhere.

Clearly, they had also been told that above all, they must protect the brand. As I took these photos I was quickly accosted by two salespeople inside, and three plain clothes security guys outside, putting their hands in my face and telling me to stop taking photographs – that it wasn’t allowed. And why wasn’t it allowed? Because their boss told them so.

I…may or may not have told them that we were two American Apple employees visiting China and checking out the local stores. Either way, they got friendlier and allowed me to snap some pictures.

And the best part? A ten minute walk around the corner revealed not one, but TWO more rip-off Apple stores.

Some store managers may have dozed off briefly during certain parts of the lecture on How to Completely Ignore Intellectual Property Rights:

Anyone from Apple want to come down to Kunming and break open a can of IPR whoop-ass?


Thursday, July 21, 2011

Trapped, ambushed and gassed

July 21, 2011

'I was coughing really hard. It was getting harder to breathe. The only thing that was flashing on my mind was the thought of death.'


By Fadiah Nadwa Fikri

On July 7, while I was lazing around at home after work, I got a call from my friend, N Surendran saying that my name was on the list of 91 individuals who were restricted from entering Kuala Lumpur on July 9, 2011.

Nothing surprising. It was just that I couldn’t wrap my mind around the paranoia displayed by the government over a planned peaceful assembly to demand for clean and fair elections.

This whole scare tactic definitely was funnier than any comedy show I’d ever watched on TV.

It was July 9, the day plethora of right thinking Malaysians and I had been waiting for. It felt like waking up to Aidilfitri morning. Serenity filled the air. Peaceful. I packed my bag. Salt, checked. A bottle of water, checked. My friends, Latheefa Koya, Eric Paulsen and Renuka Balasubramaniam and I went to KL Hilton to meet with the rest of the group.

When I got into the room, I saw Bersih leaders, Ambiga Sreenevasan, Maria Chin Abdullah, Wong Chin Huat, Haris Ibrahim and Zaid Kamarudin, all getting ready to lead the march.

I also saw Pakatan Rakyat leaders, Anwar Ibrahim, Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, Lim Kit Siang, Hadi Awang, Tian Chua, William Leong, Nurul Izzah and our respected national laureate, Pak Samad Said, standing firm next to Bersih leaders, to give their undivided support to the cause.

I looked at my watch, it was 1.30pm. After finishing our Zohor prayers, we put our yellow Bersih t-shirts on.

The room was filled with laughter, the worrying thoughts on the highhandedness of the police in dealing with this planned peaceful assembly seemed to fade away for a little while.

I could feel the strong conviction to freedom, freedom to march on, to assemble peaceably to demand for free and fair elections. We couldn’t wait to meet with the rest of right thinking Malaysians so that we could walk together to Merdeka Stadium on this historic, most awaited day.

We started marching on, we held each other’s arms so tightly. We chanted “Bersih!Bersih!Bersih!”.

A strange feeling suddenly embraced me. A pleasant strange feeling. I believed this was what solidarity, strength and conviction felt like.

I was holding Wan Azizah’z right arm. Nurul Nuha was holding my left arm. As we were walking, I could feel more hands were holding my arms, the hands of amazing people I hardly knew.

When I looked around, all I could see was police. My heart was beating so fast, in between the chanting and the thought that all of us would not make it to Merdeka Stadium as it was almost certain that we would be arrested, judging from the heavy police presence around us.

Sudden attack

From KL Hilton, we proceeded to KL Sentral train station. At this juncture I kept asking myself why we weren’t arrested yet.

The police were there, surrounding us, waiting and watching our single move. I just ignored the question that was lingering on my mind. From KL Sentral train station, we had to go down the escalator to the underpass to reach the main road.

After going down the escalator, we then walked through the dark and confined underpass. Suddenly I heard the wail of police siren behind us, there was a police truck that was trying to pass. We stopped and gave way to the police truck. We then continued walking.

As we were still walking in the underpass, people in the forefront abruptly stopped. It was puzzling as to what was happening. I saw Anwar Ibrahim turning around and asking the people who were standing in the back to step back.

I was still puzzled as to what was happening at that particular moment. In a split second, I saw the dark and confined underpass filled with tear gas. I couldn’t breathe. My eyes were all teary. Everyone was coughing. Panic struck.

I kept asking myself these questions. “Why did they fire the tear gas directly at us while we were still in the confined underpass? Why didn’t they arrest us right before we headed for the underpass? Could this be a trap?”.

Every one ran towards the escalator to escape. Haniza Talha fell on the floor and Sharifah Shahidah picked her up. I saw one man was holding Lim Kit Siang’s left arm, trying to help him to get onto the pavement. I quickly grabbed Lim Kit Siang’s right arm and helped him get onto the pavement.

I was coughing really hard. It was getting harder to breathe. The only thing that was flashing on my mind was the thought of death.

The voice inside my head was getting louder and louder-“God, I’m going to die, I won’t be able to join any peaceful assembly in the future as this would be my last. How are people going to survive this brutality in the future?”

The use of tear gas on us, in the confined underpass was severely criminal. The thought that the same tear gas would be used on peaceful demonstrators in future peaceful assemblies was killing me.

I dragged myself to the wall and leaned against it. I was struggling to find air. A woman gave me water and held my hands. We were trapped in the middle of the underpass, we couldn’t escape from where we came. It got harder and harder to breathe.

I tried to drag myself to the escalator in my attempt to escape but my steps were getting heavier. I saw tear gas was also shot from the back of the underpass and that made me realize that I would never make it to the escalator. The dark and confined underpass was filled with tear gas which was shot from both directions, leaving every one trapped in the middle.

I just stopped as I couldn’t move, not even an inch towards the escalator. At this point in time, I couldn’t open my eyes. Everything around me seemed so distant. I couldn’t hear a thing.

Light, I suddenly saw light in between the wooden walls that were blocking off the adjacent construction site.

I told myself to get to the light and try to escape. I suddenly saw Wan Azizah and Elizabeth Wong running towards the construction site. I ran towards them and we managed to get through the gap in between the wooden walls into the construction site.

‘Welcome to Malaysia’

We ran and crossed the main road in the rain. We stopped to catch our breath. We were still coughing. Our eyes and skin were all red. I couldn’t touch my skin as it was burning.

Two American journalists were standing next to us. They too were hit by the tear gas. One of the journalists asked us “Are you okay? The police were brutal”. I replied “Welcome to Malaysia!”.

There were also a few men standing around us, passing a bottle of water to us. Elizabeth Wong drank the water and threw up as she couldn’t stop coughing.

We then sought refuge at a chapatti shop nearby. At the shop, I started calling everyone to ask whether they were alright. Some were severely injured, some were arrested and some managed to escape.

I received calls from my lawyer friends, Farhana Abdul Halim and Afiq Mohd Noor who were on their way to the police station to give legal representation to peaceful demonstrators who got arrested. They told me that they were caught in a middle of sea of people, attacked by tear gas and water cannons in Puduraya.

The whole city was under siege.

Why did they have to launch this brutal attack on us, the unarmed, peaceful citizens of this country?

Why did they have to launch this brutal attack on us, the unarmed, peaceful citizens who were just exercising our constitutional and democratic rights?

Why did they have to wage this war against us, the unarmed, peaceful citizens who were just marching on to demand for free and fair elections?

I might not have the answers to these questions but I am certain about one thing. We, the people have won this war the authority waged against us.

We stood tall in dignity, weathering this brutal attack, standing up for one belief, a belief that would never be taken away from us.

Yes, we, the people have won.

Fadiah Nadwa Fikri is from Lawyers For Liberty.


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

From Queen E and now the Vatican, Najib's book gaffe triggers sniggers

Written by Chiifen Hiu, Wong Choon Mei, Malaysia Chronicle

Oh no! Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has done it again.

At the top international circles, where understatement is de rigueur rather than bombast and self-aggrandizement, Najib's latest gaffe in presenting a book about himself to the Pope could not but raise a round of giggles and rude snorts.

It looks like the Malaysian leader could have taken a lesson or two in subtlety from the British Queen, who gave him a stunning snub last week. Elizabeth II wore the yellowest of yellow summer dresses during an audience with him and his wife Rosmah Manor during their 4-day official visit to the UK.

Just colour of Her Majesty's attire sent shockwaves through a red-faced Malaysian entourage, cascading down the diplomatic channels and all the way back home, where the Queen was cheered and blessed for remembering everyday Malaysians as they struggled to transform their society.

The royal disapproval was made clear to Najib for having ordered a violent crackdown on a peaceful civilians march, leaving thousands injured and one dead. What better way than to wear the colour of the Bersih rally T-shirt that Najib had outlawed in a bid to suppress the movement for free and fair elections?

Beginning or end of a legacy

Indeed, Malaysians are shuddering at their first couple's disastrous European outing.To them, it is obvious the world has moved on and civil liberties and social justice are now increasingly considered with equal if not greater importance than business and economic outlooks.

But not so to the 58-year old Najib, who preaches 'moderation' in his speeches abroad and rules by 'extremism' at home.

Hogging the limelight is not the news of his establishing diplomatic ties with the Vatican, but rather the thick coffee-table book with the letters 'N a j i b' prominently displayed on the front cover.

The book, after some help from Google, has been identified as the 2010 not-quite bestseller Najib: Beginning of a Legacy.

The MPH online description of the RM199 (US$66) book depicts the Prime Minister as an illustrious yet unpretentious leader, one who walks “alongside his people instead of ahead”. The irony of this statement with regards to the Bersih rally is one that isn’t easily missed.

Will Christian issues be resolved now?

Nonetheless, the meeting with the Pope concluded with Malaysia and the Vatican agreeing to establish formal ties, though exactly what this entails remains unclear.

Although boastfully described as a “multi-ethnic and multi-religious country” that “draws on the values of moderation to ensure continued harmony, stability and prosperity” by the Prime Minister, Malaysia is still reeling from many a religion-related uproar.

Malaysians, especially of the Christian faith, would ask how would this newly formed alliance with the ecclesiastical state align itself with Islam conversion cases such as that of Lina Joy, a Malay who was forced to go into hiding after she tried to get the courts to recognize her switch from Islam to Christianity.

What about the attempts to ban the Catholic Church of Sabah and Sarawak from using the word Allah in their newspaper, The Herald, and the more recent torching of churches in the peninsula?

And what about the extremist religious and racial rights groups endorsed by Najib's political party UMNO? How would they react to such zingers of issues?

Few Malaysians, let alone of the Christian faith, would believe UMNO would let go of its traditional political weapons just to please the Vatican. It is also hardly likely that the Vatican will not insist on greater human rights for their followers.

The Najib book - the greatest satire?

So it looks Najib's much-glorified foray into the Holy See will turn out to be another expensive public relations exercise to benefit himself.

What was agreed at the Vatican may not be inked yet, and what is expected to be finally formalized a mere 'exchange-of-smiles-and-handshakes' pact.

Deep-seated and entrenched religious rows will stay unresolved in Malaysia and Christian 'bashing' will continue as and when it suits Najib and UMNO to play up their political game.

In light of today’s political climate in Malaysia under Najib’s regime, one must wonder if the description of the PM in the book presented to the Pope as a “truly inspiring leader … one all Malaysians look up to for the future of their society” is really satirical. - Malaysia Chronicle


Taken to the cleaner

Political affray in Malaysia

An overzealous government response to an opposition rally

MALAYSIA is one of South-East Asia’s stabler nations; but a rally in Kuala Lumpur on July 9th in demand of electoral reform turned surprisingly nasty, leading to the arrest of more than 1,600 people. The police fired tear gas and water cannon into the crowd, and one man died of a heart attack. All those arrested were released fairly quickly, but Amnesty International, a London-based human-rights group, called it “the worst campaign of repression in the country for years”. The government’s reaction showed a lot of nervousness about how much opposition it can tolerate.

In fact the crackdown started a few weeks ago after “Bersih 2.0” announced that it was going to stage the rally. Bersih, also known as The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections, is a loose alliance of NGOs and activists (bersih means “clean”). It argues that all candidates should be given access to the mainstream media and that indelible ink should be used to stop people voting more than once. It all sounds uncontroversial, but not to the government. Bersih was declared illegal on July 1st and about 200 activists were rounded up. The march itself was then banned, although the authorities offered Bersih a stadium to meet in—and then withdrew the offer.

Perhaps the government was looking back nervously to the first Bersih march, in 2007. On that occasion, too, thousands protested against the Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition government and demanded reform. Subsequently, in the 2008 general election, the BN lost its largest share of votes since 1957 when it started ruling the country after the British left. The current prime minister, Najib Razak, deputy prime minister in 2007 before taking over the top job in an internal party coup, must have feared that the second Bersih rally might be a similar portent. He has to hold an election before 2013, but wants to do so earlier to win his own mandate. Opposition politicians were quick to join Bersih. The pre-eminent leader of the opposition, Anwar Ibrahim, was shoved to the ground and injured in the affray.

None of this bodes well for Malaysia. The heavy-handed police tactics have provoked a lot of anger; the government has conceded an official investigation into claims of police brutality. In one instance (caught on film), police seemed to fire tear gas and water cannon into a hospital where protesters were sheltering from a baton charge. Few old laws were left untouched in the attempt to round up suspects before the march. It was reported that 30 people arrested in Penang were investigated under Section 122 of the Penal Code for the charge of waging war against the king. Dragging in the constitutional monarch, Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin, seemed particularly desperate, reminiscent of the abuse of the monarchy’s position in neighbouring Thailand. On the eve of the rally, the king came out with a statement reminding everyone that “street demonstrations bring more bad than good, although the original intention is good.”

Mr Najib defended the police and accused the marchers of sowing chaos. Dismissing the motives of Bersih, he cast it as a desperate attempt by Mr Anwar to grab power. The immediate upshot is that Mr Najib may choose to delay calling for an election for some time, to let things settle down. He presumably hopes that if he waits long enough, people will have forgotten about this ugly incident. But the longer-term effects are hard to judge. It might also help to unite a fractious opposition against what they portray as an assault on democracy.


Saturday, July 16, 2011

My Bersih 2.0 Experience -- Marina Mahathir

Sunday, July 10, 2011

So I went.

I have to say that the night before I had many many misgivings, especially after reading about the army doing exercises with the FRU. Could the government seriously be contemplating shooting their own people? Who knows? My stomach was in knots thinking about the many young people I knew who were intent on going, including my daughter. Would I be able to forgive myself if something happened to them?

After seeking advice from various friends, I finally decided that I could not stay safely at home while my daughter, friends and colleagues faced possible danger. I had to walk with them. Besides even if I stayed home, I would have spent all my time worrying. So I had to go.

A friend who lived in the city offered to be my protector and together we devised a plan on what to do. Hubby was supportive and gave some advice on how to stay safe. My neighbours also wanted to come along. So fairly earlyish, my friend drove over to get me with no problem and we headed back into the city. Despite the roadblocks in some areas, we encountered no problems. In fact driving into KL was so pleasant because the roads were so clear. The police directed traffic where they had to and were generally cooperative ( except for one we saw arguing with a man trying to get into his own condo). We got to a roadblock in the KLCC area and my friend explained that he lived in the area and they let us through, four people in a car dressed as if we were going hiking!

From my friend’s apartment block, we walked to Times Square and parked ourselves at the Starbucks for a coffee while we waited. A cursory look around the outlet and mall revealed that many people were doing the same thing. Meanwhile a whole van of police was stationed outside the mall but after a while they all went off.

We kept in touch with various friends around the city to find out where they were and what the situation was. At about 12.30 we started to walk up Jalan Hang Tuah towards the stadium area. We were not in big groups, just people out on a weekend stroll. We thought we would encounter police in front of the big police headquarters in front of Pudu Jail but there was nothing. When we got to the corner of Jalan Hang Jebat, we saw some police motorcycles and only a couple of cops. Lots of people were just sitting on the curbside under the eye of the cops. It was pretty clear what all these people were there for.

We walked along Jalan Hang Jebat in front of Stadium Negara towards the OCM and found many other friends waiting there. Apparently at one point the cops had given chase even though there was no reason to and caught some people and hauled them off. But from then on we could sit and wait by the curb without anyone disturbing us.
Jalan Hang Jebat and the small road that led up to Stadium Merdeka stayed pretty quiet. Members of the Bar Council (who had to suffer wearing their suits in the heat just so that we could spot them easily) walked around observing what was happening. At one point one woman in a suit sat herself at the intersection to take notes.
One lone woman lawyer at her station, Jln Hang Jebat

We all debated whether to stay there or move down to Petaling Street but we were afraid that we wouldn’t be let back up again. Then it started to rain. My friend and I sought shelter under some hoarding along with young people. Just then I got a message that we were to go to KL Sentral. After confirming this with a friend at Sentral, my friends and I started to walk down Hang Jebat just as a large group of people started walking up. The rain was pouring at that point and I didn’t know quite what to do, whether to tell people they should turn round or not.

Seeking shelter for a while under a shop five-foot way, I talked to various other friends and eventually decided to head back to the stadium area where I found my daughter and lots of other friends there. The main group earlier had gone up to Stadium Merdeka, did some chanting in front of the FRU and then headed down again. But many people hung about just to observe everything and soak in the atmosphere. One group of young people had yellow ribbons on sticks and started a little dance. Others were buying ice cream from a bicycle vendor who came by. There was a real carnival atmosphere.

Here's a video of the rally yesterday taken by my daughter. As you can see, it was peaceful. And every time some people started chanting 'reformasi', someone else would start a louder chant of 'Bersih'.

I have to say that I never felt safer than when I was in the crowd. People recognized me and said hello. Some wanted to take photos. It didn’t feel any different from any other Saturday out. And to be perfectly fair, the cops and FRU in my area showed admirable restraint. They saw that people were not doing anything more than chanting and nobody was harming anyone so they just stood there and left everyone to do their thing. We came across a whole FRU unit blocking a lane next to the Chinese temple at the roundabout at the bottom of Jalan Maharajalela, waved at them and they waved. Cool cops!

Of course not everyone had the same experience. Here’s an account from a colleague who was in a different street:

Unfortunately my experience wasn't so benign. I was part of the marchers (along with A and others) who were effectively kettled by the police in Jalan Pudu. FRU units to the front and back of us prevented us from leaving, and we were trapped by the walls of a construction site opposite Tung Shin Hospital after the FRUs pushed us back. It was probably the worst of the hotspots because of that: when the police started firing round after round of tear gas at us, we had nowhere to run to. I think they were determined to make an example out of us, because they bloody well tear-gassed and sprayed us with water cannons when they had no reason to do so.

We were all tear-gassed at least three, four times. An NGO staffer was hit by a canister. V told me that she saw people jumping off the second floor of the Puduraya bus terminal because the police had released tear gas too close to the terminal and the wind carried the fumes into the enclosed building. When the marchers ran for shelter in Tung Shin Hospital, the police fired tear gas and water cannons INTO the hospital grounds. Later the police lured us into re-assembling on the road on the pretext of negotiating a peaceful dispersal. They arrested the MP (Sivarasa) who was doing the negotiating, then -- after ordering us to sit down so (as we realised later) we would be sitting ducks -- they fired more tear gas and water cannons at us. A, myself and our companions eventually managed to find a way out from the trap via the Santo Antonius church and (irony of ironies) the car park of the Hang Tuah police station (near the monorail station). There were so many very brave people yesterday.

I now know that smearing toothpaste under the eyes to reduce irritation caused by tear gas actually works (thanks, A)! I'm still itchy and short of breath from all that tear gas, which is a bit annoying. But really, mostly what I remember of the rally was how moving it was: the solidarity among the protesters, how people looked out for one another. Whenever I was tear-gassed there was a stranger running along at my side and offering me and my friends salt to counteract the effects. When the police sprayed chemical-laced water cannons into the crowd and the people affected cried out for water to wash the stuff away, others turned and ran back toward the cannons with bottles of water to help. People helped others climb up a hill towards the hospital to escape (some guy helped me up the steep slope). Someone always stepped up to make sure that a panicked run doesn't turn into a stampede, including an elderly woman who took it upon herself to guide the marchers to safety. She's a first-time marcher to boot! Actually there were lots of first-time marchers, and more young middle-class urbanites than I've ever seen at any other rallies including the 2007 Bersih rally. At one point people started picking up the tear gas canisters and throwing them back at the police, or kicking the canisters safely away from the marchers and bystanders. I heard via the #bersihstories Twitter hashtag when the police fired tear gas into Tung Shin, there were people who grabbed the canisters and wrapped them in their own towels, then threw the canisters into the drain so there wouldn't be so much fumes.

And another one, about people’s goodness:
My group has a lovely little story to tell as well, of how we escaped from the Tung Shin hospital area after one of the tear gas attacks. We took a little alley uphill between the shophouses, and there was a block of flats there. One of the residents told us to go through the building to get out through the back! We climbed upstairs and then along the opposite corridor a woman shouted and pointed, "That way, go that way, there is an exit out the back!" and we scuttled along our corridor, down the back stairs and found ourselves safe outside on Changkat Tung Shin or something like that.

Rakyat all contributing in their own ways!

There are many stories and photos, both good and bad, of the whole event. But to me what was most important was that Malaysians proved two things: one, they can assemble together on a common cause peacefully and two, therefore showed that they are a mature people. The fact is that there were all kinds of people there, young and old, all races and religions and all classes and creeds. I bumped into many young people, the children of my friends, who had come to see what it was all about and decide for themselves what to think about the issue.
Do these people look like hooligans to you?

Whatever one thinks about the issue that Bersih is espousing, we should all be proud of our fellow Malaysians who did not, despite dire predictions by some, behave like hooligans and destroy property and hurt one another. There were people hurt and one death but people who had participated in the rally did not cause them. The restaurants and shops around the area were doing roaring business as people got thirsty and hungry.

There are also some people claiming that the world now has a bad impression of Malaysia because the foreign media (and the local media for that matter) reported only about the teargassing and water-cannoning. I think people are confusing the government with the people. Yes, the world now has a bad impression of the Malaysian government because it has handled this whole issue so badly. They don’t have the same impression of the Malaysians who stood up for their rights and their cause.
This is what gives a good impression: protestors and police shaking hands before dispersing at 4pm.
And by the way, I can’t believe some of the mean things being said about the man who died after being teargassed! My goodness, every time I read totally uncompassionate things like that, I know that I’m on the right side.


YB Nik Nazmi Bersih Story

Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad is the state assemblyman for Seri Setia and Parti Keadilan Rakyat's Communications Director.

My Bersih story

July 16, 2011

JULY 16 — I marched at the first Bersih rally in November 2007, but Bersih 2.0 was a whole different experience.

First, the level of BN paranoia and intimidation was way more intense than what it was in the first gathering. Secondly, there were more “newbies” — particularly the young and the middle class. The crowd was also more multi-racial.

I will be frank. Like many Malaysians I too was anxious and a little scared a few weeks beforehand as the atmosphere become more charged as the Umno-BN elite got more agitated. It reached such ridiculous heights that when Wardina Safiyyah came to an event in my constituency and spoke about (physical) cleanliness and someone in a Bersih T-shirt was spotted, she was vilified by Umno cybertroopers.

But as it became more Orwellian, absurd and idiotic — my mind reached a tipping point when the fear, while still there, was overwhelmed by a determination to stand up to all this. Maybe it’s just the adrenaline, but I felt that it was God’s way of giving us the strength to face all this.

I spent Friday night in Kuala Lumpur — dropping by Nurul Izzah Anwar’s aqiqah for her son in Segambut (where everyone chatted anxiously about what would happen the following day) — before retiring to a hotel quietly to ensure that I would be able to take part in Bersih the next day. While the city’s access points were choked due to unnecessary roadblocks by the police, the city centre’s streets were eerily empty.

As I woke up the next day and went down for breakfast, journalists and Bersih activists dominated the coffee house. We traded the latest gossip — one shocking piece of information from a journalist was that the city’s mortuaries were being emptied in case there were casualties on July 9.

I would not have taken it so seriously had I not been told by a policeman a few days before that their instructions were clear if the people stood their ground: they were to use tear gas, followed by rubber bullets, with the third and final option being “live” bullets.

In retrospect, after what happened to Baharuddin Ahmad who died and what the police did to Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and his security team, Khalid Samad, Mohamad Sabu and many others, this does not sound so far-fetched.

Still, the stories of courage from the day abound. A few friends — from non-political backgrounds — texted me asking how they could participate. A doctor at a government hospital who was on call on Friday night was nervous but wanted to join: “Even if it’s just me, I’m adding one more Malaysian to the cause.”

Another MCKK senior, working at a government agency, was supposed to join me at my hotel to go together but due to the road closures decided to pray elsewhere and join the crowd there.

A college friend — who is now a banker — was not sure about joining as he had not been in any demonstrations before and did not know anybody there. When I suggested that he to come to the city by LRT and accompany me, he immediately did so.

One of my Keadilan Kelana Jaya members warned me that the Special Branch was moving into the hotel in large numbers to monitor the guests. As we tried to gather bits of information through our handphones and the Internet, we concluded it would be best not to join the senior leaders at KL Sentral as the police would be in full force there and instead go to Jalan Hang Tuah.

We left at 1pm. Forgetting that Khairy Jamaluddin’s red shirts were gathered at Bukit Bintang, we drove straight into the police cordon and had to use another route. Zigzagging through the city, we found ourselves in Jalan Hang Tuah but saw a huge contingent of police at Masjid al-Bukhary, where we planned to pray.

It was then we saw Dr Yaacob Sapari, the Selangor state exco who told us it would be safer for us to pray at the fire station’s surau instead. Having completed our prayers, we walked into the rain towards Pudu station. It was hujan rahmat, I thought to myself as rain would make the tear gas and water cannons less potent.

A small crowd of Bersih supporters was gathered near the Bukit Bintang-Pudu junction. Many were PAS members from the east coast with a smattering of city dwellers who decided to join the fun. We were amused at the curious sight of a small number of red shirts with Malaysian flags. Some of the Bersih supporters were even given red shirts as Umno Youth tried hard to boost their small numbers!

At the head of the crowd, I saw Dr Mujahid Yusof Rawa. Realising that no other Pakatan leader was there I decided to go to the front as well, although I had little experience in leading demonstrations (being at the front and being a follower are two different things). After being informed that the back lanes behind Pudu were clear, we decided to walk through the back lanes.

Most were in normal shirts to avoid being stopped and harassed by the police. But we marched with gusto in the rain, chanting “Bersih”, “Daulat Tuanku”, “Hidup Rakyat”, “Reformasi” and “Allahu Akbar.” Tourists and Malaysians in the nearby eateries cheered us on while we asked them to come and join us. I decided to don the Bersih T-shirt that I had kept in my bag.

We twisted and turned through the roads and back lanes of downtown Kuala Lumpur as we marched, while the group grew steadily. Other groups from different gathering spots merged seamlessly with ours. The group was incredibly diverse, urban young Malays rubbing shoulders with non-Malays from different age groups.

Veteran demonstrators mixed with first-timers. My subsequent conversations with friends confirmed what I saw — middle-class families including those with children in private schools and students of private colleges, GLC managers and government officers came out in large numbers for Bersih 2.0. The class divide, at least in the urban areas, appears to have been breached.

This was Middle Malaysia. It is difficult to imagine this multiracial and diverse crowd engaging in violence or being a threat to national security. But they cared for clean and fair elections, as well as the freedom of assembly and standing up to the authoritarian tactics of BN and the police. This was also the Facebook generation, as many took photos as a memorabilia from history, legacies for their children and grandchildren in a better Malaysia hopefully.

Finally, as news of police violence in KL Sentral and barricades in other parts of the city filtered in, the crowd decided to head towards KLCC. The crowd — now numbering at least 15,000 to 20,000 in my group alone — turned around to head towards KLCC on Jalan Ampang.

We wound up at the back of another group that had got there earlier, so I ran to the front to help marshal the crowd forward. Some wanted me to hang back in the rear for my own safety, but I answered: “If a YB is scared to lead by example, he does not deserve to be called one.” I said this not out of pride or recklessness but rather a determination to not let fear control me and hopefully motivate the rest in a small way.

As we marched towards Dr Mahathir’s towering monument, we realised that the police personnel nearby could not do anything due to the size of the crowd. Helicopters hovered above us as more police were watching from a distance. I waved at them, to show them that in spite of the massive arrests, brutality and roadblocks, the rakyat was not cowered.

We had a sit-in at the Jalan Ampang–Jalan Yap Kwan Seng–Jalan P. Ramlee junction in the shadow of the Petronas Twin Towers. Without the stadium that we agreed to assemble in, we had to opt for such a place as it would give the people room to retreat if the authorities reacted with force.

Without a PA system or a stage, we made do with what we had to help the leaders — Bersih 1 chairperson Syed Shahir Mohamud, Pakatan leaders Dr Hatta Ramli and Datuk Seri Chua Jui Meng and Nasruddin Tantawi — speak, with Badrul Hisham Shaharin (Che’ Gu Bard) acting as the moderator. I stood beneath the makeshift stage, waving a copy of the Federal Constitution that was handed to me by a fellow demonstrator.

After nearly half an hour of the sit-in, the FRU was making its way on Jalan Ampang, coming from Jalan Sultan Ismail. We dispersed. I thought of going into Suria KLCC but the police were already there.

Finally, I decided to go through the KLCC Park with a few of my local Keadilan members that I met during the march. I was still wearing my yellow Bersih T-shirt, feeling motivated after our impromptu KLCC rally. Heck, if the police wanted to arrest me now, please do so I thought. I was exhilarated but tired.

As we made our way back to my hotel, we bumped into other people. Some were still walking towards KLCC but I warned them that the FRU was out in full force. Others like me were heading back. I felt satisfied.

My thoughts were of my young family. I am fortunate to be blessed with a loving and supportive wife. Our first child has just been born, and more than anything else, my determination stemmed from a desire to fight for a better Malaysia for him. I played a part, no matter how small, in fighting for change.

Something important happened in Malaysia on July 9, 2011. For many ordinary Malaysians who had never bothered about politics, it was their first demonstration. The intimidation and brutality, rather than breaking them, actually extinguished their fear and strengthened their determination that things must not be the same again.

While the government’s 1 Malaysia campaign is floundering in spite of the millions of ringgit being paid to overseas consultants, the real Middle Malaysia showed that we could fight for a cause that is bigger than what divides us on the streets of Kuala Lumpur.


Friday, July 15, 2011

Pastor Took to the Streets for the Next Generation

I am a Pastor. I am not affiliated with any political party, but instead I cared about the country over the years about the abnormal things surrounding us. I wrote in the newspapers for the past three decades, and had been a columnist and a feature writer, criticizing about inappropriate policies and practices by both the ruling and opposition parties. And I would provide constructive ideas. In the process of writing, the freedom for my expressions was getting narrower by the day. Thus subsequently I wrote less recently!

I looked forward to the July 9 BERSIH 2.0 Assembly. I figured out how to participate in it, because the Federal Government and the Royal Police Force had been making ​​a lot of scared actions and distorted information. When Bersih complied with the King to take into account the social order and were willing to hold a rally at Merdeka Stadium instead of a street march, people thought that was good news and they could be assured of free participation. Who knows the Government and the police have classified Bersih as an illegal organization and refused to grant a permit! Finally, the IGP called upon them to change to the Shah Alam Stadium. It was strange, since Bersih was an illegal organization, why they were allowed to hold it in another stadium?

Bersih chose Merdeka Stadium was right move. The venue had a special meaning in it, that is, Tunku Abdul Rahman in 1957 declared Malaya an independent country at that stadium, and he became the first Prime Minister. Independence speaks of freedom. The purpose of the rally was to urge the government to implement a fair and clean electoral system and to submit a memo the King at the palace. So Merdeka Stadium is most suitable for that purpose.

Since it was not permitted, which means people will be hampered by the authorities! In recent days newspapers and radio and television broadcast were overwhelmed with news about road closures, roadblocks, arrests, calling people not to go to gatherings, and other like information. Malaysians are generally afraid of going against orders, so such information will certainly reach a certain level of scared effect.

When the date approached, the government further announced that on July 8 Puduraya Bus Station would be closed for buses from outstations, and public buses to stop operating on July 9 in Kuala Lumpur city center. Two years ago I participated in the Anti-ISA rally. With the experience about the action by the authorities, I expected that KTM, LRT and Monorail transports would encounter unexpected difficulties for the public on July 9. And it came to pass! So two other Pastors and I made arrangement to put up a night on July 8 at the vicinity of Jingwu Hill. Over at the place we lodged we had a pleasant surprise to see the Bishop from a certain denomination was there with a Pastor from one of its Churches. They will participate in the rally too! It was a full-house at the building that evening being occupied by a group of Christians who were participating in the rally, we were not alone!

Oppressed by fear

At evening we bought a night-issue "China Press", and found the heading that says "Will Arrest Everyone on Sight". That had really frightened us off. We were still flesh and blood! On Sunday 8.30 am I would be preaching in Petaling Jaya. If KL was to be declared a state of emergency on Saturday, or if there is no public transport to go home, or I was being arrested, who will take over my itinerary? For Malaysian Christian Churches, currently it is rare for making bold speech, if Pastors were to be arrested, would you get appraisal from church leaders and believers or would you be rebuked? I let the readers to judge about it! A few days ago the Federal Reserve Unit had done training with the Army, thus would they open fire on the crowd? Thousands of Malay martial arts fighters had pledged to fight with the people who joined the rally, would they deliberately cause trouble? Oh if I die let me die! If the late Rev. Martin Luther King did not come forward to confront the authorities boldly over discrimination of the Blacks, there would not be a black man President like Barack Obama today. I went to bed early that night; maybe it was an act of trying to bury my worries. I woke up middle of the night praying. Saturday morning when my eyes were opened seeing the first ray of sunlight, I felt a deep peace that had surpassed understanding. Fear no longer oppressed me! I knew God will do great things in this country now!

We go out for breakfast at Kota Raya around Sultan Street area. We saw people who were here and there, and we knew these were our fellow partners. We returned to our rooms and watched live TV coverage. Maybe it did not strike the authorities’ minds that the live broadcast had in fact become a good source of information for the rally participants to plan for strategic actions. Reports also said many people were arrested at the train stations and many were barred from getting out of the gates.

Our rooms were at a high floor which enabled us to have a bird’s eye-view on crowd movements. At 1.00 pm we saw people flock to Petaling and Sultan Streets with shouts of slogans. A Pastor and I got down and joined the crowd, and whereas another Pastor had gone down earlier. By then we lost contact with him. Our group could not break through the Hang Tuah Road which was heavily guarded by FRU police, so we turned back and headed to the Maybank Building. There, whenever we heard of an applause it was because of a large group of people been successfully breaking through the police barricade. In a short moment more and more people had converged at Pudu Road area. Our group had a lot of people, roughly estimated as at least twenty thousand people, right? People who were bold wore yellow Bersih shirts. If not, some held yellow balloons, flowers, and other yellow things instead. Most people did not dress up in yellow so as to avoid being arrested without first accomplishing our missions! Like a carnival here, we met old and new friends, regardless of race. Then who say we were not Sons of Malaysia? Who say we were not a peaceful assembly? We had three major races of West Malaysia and people from East Malaysia. I am pleased to see many young people there, including many teenage girls. Seeing those young people who had a heart for pursuing democracy would mean there is rescue and hope for Malaysia!

Tensions likened to a battlefield

Our plan was to hold a rally in the Stadium instead of a street march. Since we could not get near to the stadium we had to rally in the streets. The crowd gradually walked to Puduraya along Pudu Road. I did not know who made decisions for the lead. I thought we would make a detour to head to the Stadium by passing by the old Pudu Jail. We were forced to halt when there was a FRU barricade at Bukit Bintang Road in front of the traffic lights. We could not cross the "Red Sea" (the red helmets of the FRU police were like the Red Sea). Where is Moses then? FRU were carrying rifles, my God, we were unarmed, why they needed to heavily arming themselves? Police were stationed at back and front of the crowd as if we were in a battlefield. The police had caused unnecessary tensions in KL city center.

Soon I came to see water cannon trucks arrived at Maybank. To my previous experience at the Anti-ISA rally, I knew the police would soon launch a water cannon and tear gas attack simultaneously! I cautioned my Pastor friend to run. I believed many of us were first-time participants, and that was why they did not guard themselves against the police’s swift action. True enough, jets of water were being shot onto the crowd and were followed by sounds of bang bang bang – tear gas was fired. Many people were trapped in thick smoke, and then the victims suffered teary eyes and running noses. Their visions were hindered and they sprawled in panic trying to escape out of the messy scene. Though others who were not trapped in the thick smoke, they too were infected by the gas. We passed around mineral salts to each other and we sucked in our mouths and were thus relieved. Many used it to wash their eyes and faces. Because too many people were using mobile phones, we were unable to connect with our other Pastor friend. When we were backed to the room in the evening, then only we knew that he had encountered a miserable experience, that he was hit badly by water cannon and gas at Maybank area. I knew how terrible it was when two years ago how I was hit by them at Tuanku Abdul Rahman Road inside the mall. So let me express my empathy to all of you who were victims at the 709 Bersih Rally.

At about 2.20 pm, it began to rain, it was quite heavy, but we said it was God who helped us because the rain will extinguish the smokes. Yes, the police had indeed stopped firing tear gas by then! And water from the water cannons was lchemical-laced which would cause irritations on the skins. Now the rain water had helped to flush off the chemicals, Hallelujah! Some people wanted to leave for shelter when it rains, but we heard voices shouting, "Do not be afraid, and do not run away!" People then stood in the rain and some others even sat down on the road. The rain had made us more encouraged! We were sand-witched in between by the police at Pudu Road.

The rain was getting heavier, when it was the heaviest, water cannon trucks, police trucks and the FRU sped down from Bukit Bintang junction. The crowd fled for their lives, dashing to the nearest place they could hide. My friend and I fled into the small lane next to Tung Shin Hospital. Almost immediately we carefully moved back and peeped. The atmosphere was too tense, and police were moving up and down Pudu Road. Water cannons and tear gas were fired, and even hospitals were not spared. Many people had fled intoTung Shin Hospital and Chinese Maternity Hospital. As police were hunting for the participants in the hospitals, some of them risked their lives by scaling wire-barbed walls and in order to cross to the other side where I was. We helped them. I got numbed, and I thought why in the world the police wanted to treat us like criminals and terrorists? What wrong had we done? We were peacefully people who just wanted to make petitions for a fair and clean electoral system!

Marched by five-star hotels

More people had joined us at the lane. Some guys asked and directed us to go to Bukit Nanas. Some people were being dispersed by the attack just now and they did not get to connect with us again, but we still had a long queue of people, say, maybe at least 10,000 people, right? We're really marching in procession now, and this was not our original plan. We passed by residential areas, Ampang road, and Raja Raja Chulan Road. Wow, there were so many five-star hotels and commercial buildings along the way, and the procession had attracted many foreign tourists, staff and the passers-by. They stood outside their buildings, and many of them were busy taking pictures and videos! That was definitely one more way God was helping us! Those spectators would certainly spread the news back home. As we marched we repeatedly shouted slogans such as "Bersih Bersih, Pilihan Raya (clean clean, general elections); Bangkit Rakyat (Rise up People)." At this time, many police had just looked on, there were no actions from them, and perhaps they did not want the tourists to see the negative image of the Malaysian police force, right?

Finally, we marched to the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre (KLCC) Square, next to the Twin Towers. It was already 4.00 pm. We all sat down, and several leaders gave their speeches for about 20 minutes. Suddenly the police pounced on the people from KLCC side, and everybody rose up and fled. Many people were arrested! This time people were scattered in different directions. So the people dismissed themselves. Wow, our group had walked 20 kilometers, right? By now my Pastor friend and I had to walk back to our room before we headed off to the KTM station.

We only came to know about the situations of gatherings in other places later. If we estimated that there were 50,000 people on that day, it was not something exaggerating. If not because the authorities had used all means and avenues to suppress the rally, we could have several fold more in the crowd.

I got home at 9.00 pm. After a shower, as I sat down relaxing, I felt a cleaner atmosphere that was engulfing Malaysia. One of the major achievements of the rally was the elimination of fears in most of the hearts of Malaysians. Those who did not participate would be inspired by the big crowd, and subsequently they were awakened! Malaysians will be more positive now in upholding the Federal Constitutional right in freedom of assembly. The success of the Bersih 2.0 Rally was just the beginning, now the real mission is to pursue on in making sure that the Government get the 8-point petition done. For any electoral candidates, it is only a true victory when their seats were won through fair and clean elections. It was clearly the People Power that had enabled the success in this rally. I knew my involvement in activism is worthwhile. I had contributed a little effort for the sons of Malaysia. And now I can also tell my children that I cared for their future, and I took to the streets for my next generation!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

July 9 Bersih 2.0 Rally CROWD ESTIMATION, 1.00 - 2.30 PM

PUDURAYA: 32,000 people
Area127,536 sq.ft.
Estimated crowd31,884 people (1 person/4 sq.ft.)

The majority of rally participants assembled at Puduraya between 1pm - 2pm. This comprised of a mass of people walking from Kota Raya, Petaling Street and other areas. From the many photos taken, this was the densest crowd in the rally.

After the FRU took action the crowd dispersed in various directions, some to KLCC, some to Tung Shin Hospital and others to Stadium Merdeka via different routes.

While some people were gathered at Bukit Bintang, Stadium Merdeka, KL Sentral and Jalan Sultan, from photo evidence and tweets gathered this was the largest measureable crowd throughout the day.

The later crowd (3-4pm) near the Stadium can be considered a subset of this, along with people from the other areas that managed to reach it.

SG WANG PLAZA: 3,500 people
Area14,000 sq.ft.
Estimated crowd3,500 people (1 person/4 sq.ft.)

Marching from Pudu Plaza, this group was reported arriving at Sg Wang Plaza at 1.15pm. They were reported as moving to Stadium Merdeka on their own path.

KLCC: 5,000 people
Area25,528 sq.ft.
Estimated crowd5,105 people (1 person/5 sq.ft.)

It is not clear how many gathered at KLCC that were not from Pudu or Petaling Street. The only source of information before 3pm were tweeple on the scene reporting no tear-gas (there were false reports at 11 AM), a photo and video of a small crowd, from which this area was derived.

At 4pm the crowd at this area easily doubled, but it cannot be confirmed how many were from Pudu so this increase was not included. A lower density calculation was used due to the crowd being more spread out.

An additional 5,000 were reported halted at KL SENTRAL. An estimated 2,000 more were near the Stadium and other areas.

To calculate the total attendance for the rally, tweets and photos were examined to determine which point in time the crowd was largest. This was determined to be between 1 - 2.30pm.

Polygons (shaded areas) were then generated based on the photos taken within that time-frame in different parts of the city. The area covered by the polygon was calculated using a separate tool, and this area was then divided by a factor based on how dense the crowd was.

If the crowd was standing close together, the factor was 1 person for every 4 sq.ft. (1 person/4 sq.ft.) If the crowd was moving about, or mix of standing close and fair, then it was 1 person for every 5-6 sq.ft. The factors used are stated for each map.

PUDU31,884 people
KLCC5,105 people
SG WANG3,500 people
KL SENTRAL5,000 people
OTHER AREAS2,000 people
TOTAL47,489 people

The margin of error is expected to be +/- 5%. To sum up:
An estimated 45,000 to 50,000
people attended the July 9 Rally.
Disclaimer: The shaded areas on the Google Map are there to give an idea of the area used in calculation. But it is not drawn with the actual latitude/longitude coordinates used in our maths, which was a more detailed polygon.This polygon could not be exported for use in Google Maps, so an approximate shape was redrawn for this site. It should also be noted that all figures on this page are estimates, and not expected to be 100% accurate.



作者/陈牧师 Jul 14, 2011 11:19:01 am


关 于709净选盟(BERSIH)2.0集会,我满心期待。之前我盘算如何参加,因为联邦政府和皇家警察作出了太多的吓唬行为及歪曲了资讯。当净选盟遵从元 首的意愿顾及社会的秩序而愿意从街头游行改为默迪卡体育场集会,以为就是好消息可放心参加时,谁知政府和警方以净选盟为非法组织而拒绝集会。最后总警长呼 吁它们改去莎亚南体育场举行。奇怪,既然是非法组织,为何又可以被允许在另一个球场举行呢?

净 选盟选择默迪卡体育场举行乃基于那里有特殊的意义,即是于1957年东姑阿都拉曼就是在那里宣告马来亚独立的,他并且成为第一任首相。独立是说明自由,净 选盟是为了争取公平和干净的选举制度而集会,同时将前往皇宫呈交给元首要求选举委员会改革的八个项目备忘录,所以默迪卡体育场是最适合不过的了!


当 日期靠近时,政府进一步宣布708停止长途巴士进入富都车站(Puduraya)及在709当天停止公共巴士穿行吉隆坡市区。我两年前参加过反内安法令集 会,对警方的行动有了经验。我预料709当天乘搭电动火车和轻快铁必会遇到突发的困难,果然真不出所料。因此我和另两个牧师一同于708到精武山附近过 夜,惊喜遇到某宗派会督(Bishop)和他的助手牧师也同住在一起,也是将参加集会的。加上还有一群基督徒,我们并不孤独呢!



星 期天早上八时三十分我还要在八打灵讲道,如果星期六吉隆坡被颁布紧急状态,或没公共交通回家,或我被逮捕了怎么办?目前马来西亚基督教教会对于勇敢讲话是 少见的,若牧师被逮捕,教会领袖们和信徒们会赞赏你呢还是会责备你呢?那就由读者们去评定吧!几天前联邦后备队跟军队排练,到时他们会不会向人群开枪?几 千个打马来武术的人也声称准备与集会者作斗,他们是否会故意滋事?啊,死就死吧!


我 们出去吃早餐,在苏丹街一带几条街,看到分散在各处稀稀落落的人群,大家都心照不宣,这些都是同道中人。我们回房间休息,观看电视现场报道,殊不知报道却 变成让参加者获得不同地点资讯的好管道,掌握适当的策略行动。报道也说不少人在火车站被逮捕及不获得走出闸门的不幸消息。

我们居住的地方居 高临下,下午一时看到人群喊着口号涌到苏丹街和茨厂街一带。我和一个牧师随即就下去与他们回合,而另一个牧师则更早下去失去了联络。我们的队伍冲不上汉都 亚(Hang Tuah)路,就转回头去马来亚银行大厦。在那里,每逢听到有鼓掌声,就是因为有一大群人冲过警察的突围,人群四面八方地涌过来,越来越多人。

我 们这队好多人,看起来最少两万人吧?勇敢的就穿着黄衣,甚至净选盟黄衣,不然就用黄色气球、花朵、其他黄色东西代替。大多数没有穿黄衣乃不希望使命未成就 先被逮捕!这里好像一个嘉年华一样,大家认识新朋友,不分种族,那么谁讲我们大家不是大马之子?谁讲我们不是和平集会?我们有西马三大种族和东马各种族。 我欣喜看到有很多青少年,包括不少十多二十岁的少女们。青少年追求民主,马来西亚有救了!


我 们原本是要集会而不是游行的,但因进不了体育场就只好在街集会。队伍渐渐往前走去富都车站,沿着富都路走。也不知谁作主,总之就是跟。心想可能要从半山巴 旧监狱前绕道去体育场吧?谁知在武吉免登(Bukit Baintang)路前面的交通灯处不能“过红海”(联邦后备队红红的头盔犹如一片红海),摩西在哪里呢?红头兵提着莱福枪,天啊,我们手无寸铁,荷枪实 弹所为何事?有警察驻守的地方犹如战场,吉隆坡市中心紧张的气氛乃是警方造成的。

不 久我看到水炮卡车来到马来亚银行,以我以前的经验,很快警方就会发动水炮和催泪弹双管齐下攻击的,我就提醒我那身边头一次参加集会的牧师快跑。我相信在我 们当中有许多是头一次的参加者,不防备警方会有什么急速行动,果然说时迟,那时快,水花到处扫射,砰!砰!砰!枪声后,许多人就困在烟雾中,眼泪鼻涕随即 流出来,眼前一片像雾又像花的景象,中招者在迷蒙又睁不开眼情形下狼狈地摸索逃跑,而我俩虽离开警察和水炮车比较远也不幸免地鼻孔及眼睛皆中招。

大 家就互相传递粗盐含着口,用湿毛巾抹眼。由于太多人使用手机的缘故,我们都很难接通电话。后来回房间才获知那失散的牧师很惨的遭遇,就是那时候他在马来亚 银行处被喷到全身湿透,并且从口吸了一大口烟。我两年前与一堆人在端姑阿都拉曼路逃进商场,水炮也不放过我们直射而入,在私人场所我们也中招,跟着催泪弹 的烟直冒入室内。所以我对这种滋味可与709受害者分享同情的感受。

约两点十分,天下起雨来,相当大,我俩认为“天助我们也”,因为雨将会 把烟雾熄灭,因此警方也不再发催泪弹了!并且中了水炮者因着水含化学药而全身发痒的,也一拼被雨水冲干净。下雨时有人想离队避雨,但有声音喊“不要怕,不 要跑掉”,大家就在雨下有站有坐的,这更壮大我们的奋斗意志!我们被卡在两组警察中间,整条富都路从马来亚银行到近武吉免登路口都挤着人群。

雨 越下越大,等到最大雨的时候,水炮车,警察卡车和联邦后备队从武吉免登路口处直奔而下,人群即鸡飞狗走的,往最靠近的地方窜逃去避难。我俩逃入同善医院旁 的小巷,然后谨慎地回去窥探,气氛太紧张了,警车走来走去。水炮和催泪弹发过了,甚至医院不能幸免当灾,接着警察到处追捕集会者。人群逃到同善医院和华人 接生院范围,我们帮助他们逃出有铁丝网的围墙,他们在冒着跌下来的危险。我想,难道集会者是什么恐怖分子吗,是什么犯人吗?为何这样对待我们?


集 会者都走向我们的小巷,有人就召集大家从小巷往黄梨山去。有些人掉队了,但还有一条长长的人龙,望不到尾,最少也有一万人吧?我们现在真的是游行了,原本 这不在计划内,经过住宅区、安邦路,和拉惹朱兰路。哗,就这样经过许多五星级大酒店和商业大楼,吸引许多外国游客,职员和路过的人们在路边一边围观,一边 拍照及录影,好不热闹!

这岂不是另一项“天助我们也”情形吗?那些围观者肯定就把消息外传,全世界都知道我们的诉求斗争了!这正所谓“有心 栽花花不发,无心插柳柳成荫”也!群众一边走一边喊口号,如“Bersih Bersih, Pilihan Raya (干净干净大选);Bangkit Rakyat (人民兴起来吧)”。此时,许多警察只是旁观,没有行动,或许不想让游客看到大马警察的负面形象吧?

最 终,我们游行到吉隆坡国际会展中心(KLCC)广场,即双子大厦旁,当时已经是四点。大家坐下,几个领袖发表言论约20分钟。忽然警察分头追逐群众,大家 都如惊弓之鸟逃命,不少人被逮捕了!这回人群都四散,也无意思再聚集,这队伍就正式解散了!哗,我们这队伍走了20公里了吧?并且还要走去很远的电动火车 站和轻快铁站回家呢!