Peaceful assembly, too peaceful?

A view on why the top dawgs may not be pleased with peaceful assemblies.

We came in peace and intended to leave in peace but alas, this was not to be. You can make your own conclusion whether my blog title “We allow peaceful assembly but won’t tolerate when it gets too peaceful with 200K crowd” is true or otherwise after reading my article!

We have heard many – including a senior journalist – asking why Bersih did not take up the offer of Merdeka Stadium as a venue. These people must have been naive to even take this into consideration, after having experienced the flip-flop offer on Bersih 2.0.

The main objective of the government is to prevent any Bersih rally from happening and, should this occur, some sort of provocation is initiated to cause chaos. You can bet that if Bersih 3.0 was initially planned to be held at Stadium Merdeka, the venue would be rejected. Any initial venue proposal by Bersih 3.0 will be rejected to create confusion and frustration, hence this time Bersih 3.0 was smart not to play their game.

Knowing that they (the government) cannot stop the rally, the next modus operandi was to create and cause as much inconvenience as possible – not only to those attending but also to visitors coming in to Kuala Lumpur – to make them angry and go against any rally that is going on. I attended two anti-ISA and two Bersih rallies. All the time they were very peaceful until the FRU started firing tear gas and water canons  onto the peaceful crowd. Bersih3.0 is no different from where I was walking around – peaceful.

I reached KL on Thursday afternoon and paid a visit to the two groups – #OcuppyDataran and #SolidaritiMahasiswa – who were still at Dataran Merdeka under the watchful eyes of DBKL personnel. No police were around and the road leading to Dataran was neither closed nor blocked. I left half an hour later, after hanging around for awhile to show support. Everything was very peaceful and I observed tour buses bringing in tourists.

But the whole scene at Dataran Medeka changed when I returned on Friday. Both ends of the road were blocked, nobody could enter and there were groups of policemen inside – about thirty of them in plain clothes, presumably the SB, were getting a briefing at the sitting area fronting the art gallery. Still no FRU truck was in sight. Heard that they obtained a court order to completely shut down Dataran Merdeka, and the order was pasted around the Central Market area.

Late into Friday night, a couple of thousands were already rallying at the junction of Jalan Raja next to the LRT station. Apparently they were from the #SolidaritiMahasiswa group. No FRU and policemen stopped them. The group was singing and intermittently chanting, “BERSIH!” and “REFORMASI!”. I left around midnight and felt that everything would be alright for tomorrow’s Bersih 3.0 rally, although deep inside my heart I sensed that it wouldn’t.

I intended to sleep till checkout time but was awoken by a text message around 9am. A friend was already at Jalan Sultan with thousands  of others grouping up at the starting point. I was totally roused when I looked out from my hotel room: hundreds of people wearing the yellow Bersih 3.0 T-shirt were already streaming into Central Market. I then regained full energy and got ready to join them.

After checking out, I headed to walk around the Central Market area, Petaling Street and other roads leading to Dataran Merdeka. Everywhere there were people – most of them wearing yellow tees. A few coffee shops were open and they were jam-packed with people, all trying to fill their stomachs  before the sit-in at 2pm.

I walked towards the bridge near the Bar Council; a crowd was building up as the bridge on this side were barricaded with barb wires. All were singing and chanting in a festival-like mode. All was peaceful.

As the clock ticked towards midday, there were already thousands of people from Central Market, Jalan HS Lee to Jalan Tun Perak. The whole length of the latter was really packed. I tried to walk towards Masjid Jamek, squeezing inch by inch but gave up half way near Mountbatten Hotel. When I reached Jalan HS Lee another group of people were streaming in. I stood at this point till 2pm when we were told to join the group at Menara Maybank.

I attended this rally joining the 200K or so people to show support calling for free and fair elections, I came in peace and will leave in peace. By 3pm I saw many were leaving and I also decided to go home. From our end here we did not hear of the chaos happening on the other end as our phones were blocked by some jamming device since morning. The LRT station at Pudu Sentral was already packed when I reached there.

After lining up for nearly 20 minutes I managed to buy myself a ticket and wondered why the station was still so full when the trains were in operation. I went up to the waiting deck and soon realised why: the train was not stopping. I waited and eight trains passed by without stopping even though they were less than half filled.

Yes, this time round we were allowed freedom to enter smoothly but not allowed to get back out as easily – an entrapment? I decided to go back to the street hoping to catch a bus or taxi but, what a surprise, no buses or taxis would stop to pick you up even though they had no passengers. By this time entry to the LRT station was closed and nobody could enter. I met a few youths; their eyes were blurry and they said they were tear gassed.

There was nowhere we could go except to hang around in Jalan Pudu. We saw people running from Jalan Tun Perak around Menara Maybank and Petaling Street with white smoke in the background.

By this time we heard that the FRU and police were starting their major offensives – firing tear gas, arresting people, and hitting anyone they caught (including reporters). As more people poured into Jalan Pudu, I sensed that I’d to move away from here to start joining the others walking towards Bukit Bintang.

My fear turned out to be true: that the authorities were not too happy with our peaceful gathering. They just had to create some chaos to strike fear onto the general public. Both sides are blaming each other, but even if it is true that a handful of rowdy protesters started the melee it does not warrant the police to start a crackdown to such an extreme degree. This is exactly their intention, and it took just a very small opportunity to realise their modus operandi of instigating total chaos.

I would like to point out specifically that from 9am till 3pm, what I saw was a completely peaceful rally from my walk till about when I settled down near Menara Maybank. The only thing the government fears is the success of Bersih 3.0 where the 200k+ people came to sit in for two hours and leave peacefully without any incident.


For more Bersih stories, click here.

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Posts by Richard Loh

A retired 60-year old trying to do and help to make a possible change for a better Malaysia.

Posted on 4 May 2012. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0.

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4 Responses to Peaceful assembly, too peaceful?

  1. Theresa

    Is there no way to get your views on the media? Is it really so hard to get information other than the net because after reading so many of your eye witness account I realized that it has really been an 'eye opener'
    I realize too that many people are not aware of the unbias information that you hold and want to thank you for sharing with us…the fence sitter!!
    To all of you who attended the rally, I salute you .

  2. Commuter

    RapidKL is a despicable Umno crony. What they did to their customers, the rakyat, is UNFORGIVABLE. When Umno is gone, RapidKL will be under new people-friendly management. WE WILL NOT FORGET HOW YOU BETRAYED US ON 28 APRIL 2012!!!

  3. avatar111

    This is exactly what I feel too. I was there too until 3.15pm and decided the peace assembly had served its purpose and I walked back to Sentral to drive home.I only realised later that the ruling regime would not allow a success story of Bersih3.0 and set a future precedent for all 'peaceful' to take place. Hence, it had to end with the chaos and violence as witnessed on 4.28.

  4. kamalampang

    Bersih 3.0 has shown that the people have crossed the fear threshold. They are not scared anymore. Whatever rubbish the BN throw next they will throw back. Syabas to fighters of equality, justice, fairness, free election and clean election.