Saturday, July 09, 2011

Blow by Blow

Yesterday at the office, feelings were running high. Two of my colleagues are members of Bersih, the coalition of NGOs calling for electoral reforms. They were pledged to go march peacefully to the Merdeka Stadium today to present a list of demands to the King. Free and fair elections doesn't seem to be asking for too much.

Not so. This group has been labelled everything from traitors to rabble rousers to anti-Islam. Our dear Prime Minister, in the meantime, launched the MRT project and promptly fled the country to the UK from where he sends asinine tweets such as rumours that Bersih supporters have somehow gotten a hold of submarines and are rising up from the waters in the Klang Valley rivers.

I mean to say what?

I think the moment that got to me the most yesterday was when my two colleagues were explaining calmly to the others who wanted to tag along (but who were unprepared for policy brutality) what to do, if the police started shooting tear gas into the crowd.

Apparently, you step out of the gas, breathe for a bit, allow the choking and tearing to cease and then continue along the way. Don't run because that would cause you to inhale more gas.

If they started shooting with rubber bullets, nothing for it...just run!

The one sitting next to me is only 25 years old. She had been jumpy all day. Not able to concentrate on her story about a quasi-banking group. I heard Anna, who had to go through her story (Shan deciding to take the day off and take his wife on holiday) scolding her. She came back to her place and looked up various things to beef up the story that she really didn't care about.

(Do you know how difficult it is to write something when you really don't give a damn? And your heart is about to jump out of your chest? And all the adrenaline is running so high it's screwing up your brain?)

I do.

Anyway, when she was about to leave she opened her desk drawer, took out, of all things, some scotch tape, left the desk drawer open, left her recording equipment out in the open, hands shaking, and walked out of the office after asking us, where to catch a bus.

No one knew.

We're not an office (or a generation) of bus-takers.

But the roadblocks had started and the roads were like carparks. KL was on lockdown. Buses were allowed. (Although most were forced to stop at some point outside the city) Taxies were allowed (but told to be careful who they picked up). LRTs were still running. But slowly, a cordon was being drawn around the capital.

Policemen thronged the roads which were becoming increasingly empty as the office goers and no one was allowed in.

Pretty soon, there was a tweet from her. "Naik bas."

And then sometime during the night, she was at her hotel room in Petaling Street. Booked ahead. Credit card number given over the phone. And she even tweeted that she had an extra room in case anyone required it.

And this morning, after watching phlegmatically, the police who have been told to show no mercy have been firing tear gas and water cannons into the crowd. But it's like something out of Les Miserables. The crowd waits to recover from the effects and then it marches on.

Do you hear the people sing
singing a song of angry men
it is the music of a people
who will not be slaves again...

The police are being compared to Dementors, the Nazgul, the...I mean, do we need any more comparisons? One tweet showed a pix of the legless (an old uncle who had lost his feet and was making his way along on crutches) marching against the heartless.

And the latest tweet says they have just arrested Ambiga Sreenivasan and the Bersih leaders.

When my colleague was leaving yesterday, hands shaking, she turned and looked at me.

"It will be unprecedented."

No, she was not fearless.

She was so afraid that her whole body was shaking in reaction. Having marched in the anti-ISA rally two years ago, she had no illusions about peaceful marches in Malaysia.

And in the face of all that fear, all those threats, all the roadblocks, everything..she was going anyway.

One of her tweets of what she heard the police say:

"Bodoh, tak le ajar. Ah, lawan lagi, ahhhhh."

(Stupid, cannot be taught. Ah, fight again, ahhhhhh)

Whatever they were prepared for, they were not prepared for this.

They were practising for July 9...but even they couldn't have practised shooting tear gas at a maternity hospital.

I mean, come one.

Enough is enough.

Change is happening whether they like it or not.

1 comment:

Jenn said...

I found out that our beloved PM (NOT) was not in the UK but in a state up north.

I guess that's a difference.

And the local media (except for us) swung into full force on Sunday, mocking and altering the truth.

Sort of like a fish out of water, thrashing about as it slowly dies.