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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Rally for Clean and Fari Election November 10 2007: Report

The Rally for a Clean and Fair Election is a BIG SUCCESS!!! And this was despite repeated and very serious warnings from the police and the Prime Minister himself. This showed that a large population is fed-up with trying to bring changes via the formal channels but seeing no action. BERSIH did a fine job. When they failed to get a police permit and repeated very serious warnings about participants getting arrested were broadcasted via the main stream mass media, they figured that no one will likely be able to get into Dataran Merdeka (Independence Square) and provided 4 alternative assembly points.

I had hoped to put this up immediately after returning home from the highly successful rally despite repeated warnings and threats of arrests, police road blocks and forcing LRT coaches to bypass relevant stations. There were massive traffic jams and the authorities blamed it on the rally. But as an eye witness, I can report that the rally itself did not cause the traffic jam. BERSIH organized the rally really well, with volunteers plus uniformed security guards (I asked one if he is paid, but he replied it is voluntary) to make sure there is no violence and marchers kept to the side to the roads to avoid disrupting traffic flow.

I had to put this post off because there were too many things waiting for me to do, but some remarks by an editor of a mainstream media that he is very wary of opposition hijacking any gathering. He said politicians showed up to hand memo, then they disappeared. The poor fellas get tear-gassed. He related about one famous blogger was enjoying himself at Selangor Club, having his drinks and meals, posed for a pic, retreated to the comfort of the club and blogged from there. He said another blogger was at a TV station through out, projecting his image for the elections. He also said the marchers were tools of the opposition. I felt I had to respond to his remarks.

I took his remarks about the marchers being tools of the opposition as an insult and I think I will respond to his comments here. Most of the rally organizers had spend time in detention while we, including the editor himself, were ensconced comfortably in our home going on with our daily life. As organizers, they rather than us humble participants, were at highest risks of being arrested. They did not just appear to hand over the memorandum and disappeared, but were in the midst of the march (at least quite a number of them, I don't know about one). Just in case he thinks I am one of those who blogged from the comfort of the Selangor Club, this post will contain photographs which were taken by myself personally. They had been resized for the Internet for faster downloading, but I am keeping the original large format photos in my computer in case anyone says they were scrapped from other websites.

My eldest sister received a call from my niece who is a journalist saying there are lots of policemen crawling all over Kuala Lumpur and ordered me not to go. I am a Dato (to a small bundle of joy) now and am in no position to take orders from anyone when the future of my future generations are at stake. I promised my family to be cautious and proceed with care. I stopped at the Pasar Seni (former Central Market converted to "Art" Market) LRT station, a station further away from the focus of action. It is a good thing I went early for I heard passengers in the later coaches were not allowed to disembark. I proceeded carefully towards Pasar Seni, one of the 4 alternative assembly points announced after the organizers realised we most likely will not be able to assemble at Dataran Merdeka. On the way I saw the police trucks waiting:

The last one is a "lock-up truck" designed to transport those arrested. There were policemen in front of the entrance nearest to the car park and the LRT station plus 2 reporters from Malaysiakini as well as policemen with revolvers inside Pasar Seni:

Someone inside Pasar Seni were passing out leaflets instructing what one can do if arrested. Not long after that, I saw marchers in yellow T-shirts shouting slogans and marching towards Medan Pasar, I supposed, on their way to Dataran Merdeka. I went out the sidedoor and took some photographs:

A policeman ordered us back into Pasar Seni. I went to the exit at the other end of Pasar Seni near the Annex. The door was locked, but we could see a crowd of marchers in the open space between Pasar Seni and the Annex:

I went out through the sidedoor and followed the marchers towards Medan Pasar. We were stopped by police at the Standard Chartered Bank just before Medan Pasar. The marchers were far ahead and were backed by the riot squad with shields, helments, rifles and batons:

We were again asked to disperse by the policeman you see in front of the photo. I turned back to get to the other side of the block of shoplots at the other end of Standard Chartered Bank. Here we were again stopped from proceeding by policemen and we can see the Riot Squad (FRU or Federal Reserve Unit) near the Loke Yew Building. We are now very near Dataran Merdeka, the original assembly point.

Here is the policeman who asked us to disperse:

We did (I had promised my family I will), but turned back, went over the bridge behind Pasar Seni across the Klang River, went through Daya Bumi and joined other marchers there heading towards Masjid Negara (National Mosque). Masjid Negara was sealed off by the riot squad:

We marched on towards the Istana (Palace). As we passed the KL Railway station and the KTM (Kereta Tanah Melayu), I could see riot squad with their vans plus police patrol cars parked in front of the railway station:

Further on, I could see marchers on two levels as we approach the Chinese Assembly Hall roundabout with me at the top level:

As we continue to march towrads the Istana (Palace), helicopters were flying menacingly over the sky:

We had to walked over muddy ground as we approach the Istana"

When we arrived at the closes approach to the Istana (Palace), we were blocked by the riot squad plus their red trucks:

A huge crowd had already converged there from the various alternative assembly points announced by BERSIH:

Some of BERSIH's marchers even brought along the Jalur Gemilang (Malaysian flag) to show their patriotism to the country, here seen unfurling the flags:

We heard news that the representatives had succeeded in handing over the memorandum requesting the Yang di-Peruan Agong (Supreme Ruler) to intervene to ensure a clean and fair election. We later heard that the Agong had ordered that the gates be opened to receive the representatives to hand over the memorandum despite the police and the Prime Minister ruling the rally as illegal. After the handover, we dispersed to proceed back to Masjid Negara (National Mosque) for the final assembly. Here we are in front of the KTM headquater and the Kuala Lumpur central railway station:

Notw the second line of marchers on the flyover which you can see faintly. To get a cleear look, click on the photo or the caption to enlarge the photo.

We had a final assembly at Masjid Negara (National Mosque) where a few leaders gave speeches and an announcement was made that another assembly will be at Taman Melewar, graced by Anwar Ibrahim who will be making a speech. We then dispersed.

On the way, this is what I saw, FRU (Federal Reserve Units holding sub-machine guns in front of Daya Bumi and the Central Post Office, looking very menacing:

After passing those menacing looking FRU, this time we could approach Dataran Merdeka, the original planned assembly point for the Rally for a Clean and Fair Election by BERSIH. We could see the riot squad still barricading Dataran Merdeka. As I got nearer, I saw a TV cameraman filming another man and took a photo:

This is a large format photo cropped from the original, so if you want to enlarge the photo to see things more clearly, click on the photo or the caption. Otherwise, here is a close-up of the AlJazeera TV crew:

Here are some of the actions I missed. They are Youtube videos from Al Jazeera and Malaysiakini showing participants being tear gassed and water cannoned with chemical laced water:

Gathering in Kuala Lumpur 10 Nov 2007 - al Jazeera version

(Malaysiakini video no longer available. Don't know why)

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