Idzwan Husaini shares his experience of popping his yellow-coloured street demo cherry. Peacefully, of course!
After a 7-hour bus ride, a serving of McDonald’s breakfast meal of pancakes and tea, several rounds of Sho Tai Ti/Choh Dai Di while checking the situation in Malaysia using Twitter, a lengthy conversation with an old Caucasian guy who could still remember bits and pieces of Malay greetings from working as a chef in Malaysia for 6 years, a walk on the totally opposite direction before backtracking to head to the destination, bumping into a Rosmah-look-alike who appeared to be very unhappy and grumpy about something (probably the hair!), and going into a full circle of Belgrave Square unable to get out of the fenced park, two friends, both virgins in the realm of protesting and rallying, finally made it to the High Commission of Malaysia in London.
We were both initially somewhat disappointed. There were then just around 50 people. We were hoping that it would be a bigger crowd. Then again, it was barely 10 minutes into 11 o’clock and the agreed start time was 12 noon. We said a quick hello to some of the people in the organising committee before we went to buy the illegal yellow t-shirt. There were only L and XL t-shirts and despite yours truly fashion policy of never wearing anything bigger than M, I bought one L and put it on proudly to exercise my basic human right. £7 was nothing compared to the amazing yellow t-shirt that turned our government into headless chickens.
With a silly-looking balloon-made headgear to match, I joined the crowd making conversations, chit chatting, and sharing anecdotes and bits and pieces of why we decided to take part or stories we had heard about the rally in Malaysia that just ended.
15 minutes went by and the crowd grew to around 100. We were then already learning the chants and songs that would accompany our procession. We were all excited, spirited and united. Now and again, we would see glimpse of people taking a peek behind the curtains at the many windows of the high commission. We waved and smiled at them. As placards were handed out, we continued to learn our chants and songs.
The crowd grew stronger. Someone joked that these people who were a bit late were simply using the ‘Malaysia time’. Well, you can take a Malaysian out of Malaysia but you cannot take Malaysia out of a Malaysian!
We then started chanting loud and clear and we directed it towards the direction of the high commission.
What do we want?
When do we want it?
Where do we want it?
Shame on you Malaysian Government,
Shame, shame, shame on you!
And we sang:
Bersih bersih, bersih bersih,
Bersih bersih, Malaysia,
Mari kita bersihkan,
Malaysia yang tercinta.
Najib Rosmah, Najib Rosmah,
Jangan curi duit rakyat,
Takut apa dengan rakyat,
Nampak UMNO sudah gila.
As we chanted and sang, our crowd grew to become 300-strong and the sight of our growing yellow gang was uplifting. And then a van of policemen of the Metropolitan Police arrived in front of the high commission and we all went quite. One of them came to talk to one of the organising committee members and after some note-taking, the policeman went back to his van.
We went back to our chanting and singing as we waited for more people to come and join us. Left, right and centre, our number seemed to grow and we were beyond excited the slight drizzle could not hamper our spirit. It was after all just clear water from the sky – not tear gas or chemical liquid!
We then took to the street and began marching. Along the way, we chanted and sang on top of our lungs. Along the way, several Malaysian families, seemingly out of nowhere, joined our throng and made our number stronger. Along the way, we marched in an orderly manner, crossing the street only when it was green for us. We did not stop any cars, nor did we burn or smash any.
Along the way, we handed out leaflets listing our 8 demands to locals and tourists alike. We walked from the high commission through Hyde Park and St. James Park, bypassing Buckingham Palace to a short stop in front of Malaysian Tourism office before we stationed ourselves in front of the National Portrait Gallery overlooking Trafalgar Square, facing the Nelson Column all the while chanting and singing.
The locals cheered and clapped at us. Street demonstrations and rally are nothing new to Londoners. London continues to be centre-stage for many demonstrations and rallies for Londoners respect and value the need to voice concerns and uphold freedom of expression. Arab, French and many other tourists, adult and children alike, wanted to get their hands on our leaflets to better understand our cause. They have seen revolutions happening in their own motherlands for generations and generations over they have no qualms looking at citizens of other country upholding their constitutional rights against an oppressive regime. The police escorted us to make sure we kept our promise of remaining peaceful and orderly and we did just that exactly!
In Trafalgar Square, one of the committee members, Joseph, read out the memorandum and our 8 demands. After the reading, Nurul recited her poem of oppression and how love would save us all and win the struggle. We then sang a few songs as symbolics to the freedom of expression we could experience here without government banning and restrictions. We then wrote our messages to our beloved country and stick them on the yellow balloons before we released them to the sky symbolising freedom and liberation.
Before we dispersed, we stood together singing our Negaraku witnessed by locals and tourists enjoying the summer heat on Trafalgar Square to profess our love to our one and only Malaysia.
There was nothing heroic in what we did. The memorandum we all signed was only pushed through the space under the door of the high commission. Some said we would be in trouble once we got back in the country. Some said I was risking my scholarship. Whichever angle you looked at it, the fact that the government flexing their muscles to make public service department and other agencies warn their employees and students of possible repercussions simply for speaking up against a corrupt policy was nothing short of blackmailing and that was the sort of thing we should not succumb to. And hey, the real heroes are the thousands of Malaysians walking the street of KL who stood their ground despite being tear-gassed and attacked by those who were supposed to protect them.
Some implied that I was embarrassing my own country by attending the street rally. Some implied that I’m painting a bad image about the country. The way I see, I would be more embarrassed of myself, to my future generations, had I only just look on and not speaking up against the many wrongdoings and corruptions happening in the country.
I had misgivings when we were chanting ‘Shame on you, Najib!‘ (I thought we should just stick to clean election) but after seeing his statements in the media following the rally, I could have etched those very words on my forehead and walk the street proudly any day!
Congratulations to you brave Malaysians!
Idzwan still hums “…Najib Rosmah, Najib Rosmah, jangan curi duit rakyat…” now and again.