Reformasi: Eleven Years on, Anwar Ibrahim is still making history

That day in the month of May 1999, we left the ‘reform’ movement behind but history was being made in Malaysia and now on the eve of the month of May 2009, it is high time for me to recall who the man behind this historic change in Malaysia is.

Written by Kazi Mahmood, World Futures

‘Reformasi’, ‘Reformasi’, was the call from the massive crowd in the streets while the bus I was in was entangled in the traffic jam caused by the police blockade rather than by the crowd of pro-reform supporters. The driver was angered by the call for ‘reform’ and shouted that if anybody on the bus was for the ‘reformasi’ he or she should get down now.

After a few illegal turn, beating some red lights, the driver stopped the bus at a junction which was not affected by the ‘reformists’ and repeated his ‘orders’, adding that it was better for the police outside to catch the ‘reformists’ who were in the bus. I thought he was a member of some ‘gestapo’ movement and was aware of the presence of pro-Anwar Ibrahim supporters in the bus. But this proved to be untrue with the unfolding of events in the bus.

“I think you must shut up and drive otherwise you will get a share of my thoughts,’ I shouted at the driver. I was late for a meeting and with the police blockade things turned uglier. The supporters of the ‘reformasi’ were now shouting ‘Free Anwar Ibrahim’ and ‘Mampus Mahathir’ and this seemed to have angered the elements of the FRU – or Federal Riot Units – clad in their dark colored uniform and the red helmet. They appeared to be moving towards the crowd that was lining up the footpath under the railway line of the Masjid Jamek LRT station.  In those days, to hear Malays (who were the core of the reformasi supporters) say ‘mampus’ to Mahathir was like a shock to many.

Anwar Ibrahim, the man that Malaysia’s history will not forget unlike many other heroes of the nation, was apparently in court and the crowd that came to support him was apparently being dispersed with gas and water cannon as they were being cleared from the High Court. I cannot recall if Anwar Ibrahim was really in court but what I know for sure is that there was a huge crowd of his supporters that was being heckled by the FRU. Was it the infamous day the ‘stained’ and ugly mattress was brought to the court? Anyway, May 2009 marks the 10th year of this terribly untactful event.