How can we ever forget?

Shortly after 8p.m., my friend Susan picked me up. An expert driver, she wove her way through shortcuts and soon we were along the coastal highway. To our surprise, there was a massive jam and we discovered there had been a horrible accident and the body was covered with newspapers. As policemen directed the traffic, I thought it was a grim reminder as to why we were heading to the Speakers’ Corner at Esplanade last night – to remember how Teoh Beng Hock had perished exactly a year ago.

By the time we reached Esplanade, the Speakers’ Corner was in darkness and we were quite puzzled. Then we saw that the crowd had congregated near the sidewalk just in front of the Speakers’ Corner as the space had been occupied by folks enjoying the free movie being screened as part of the Heritage Celebrations to commemorate the UNESCO award to Penang.

I looked at my watch and it showed 8.46p.m. We were six minutes late and I was amazed that there was easily a crowd of more than 150 people there. Penangites are known to be quite tardy but not this time. It seemed that most of them had the sense of urgency to show their solidarity for TBH and were dead serious about their commitment to voice their outrage. I half thought the turnout would be poor as many with whom I spoke to were unaware about the vigil.

The atmosphere was solemn and the air was pregnant with grief, anger and a strange silent kind of unity. Tragically, it took the death of an innocent man who died a futile death to bind the hearts of many Malaysians together. It took the sacrifice of ONE MAN to make people see how some disregard the value of life and had no qualms about snuffing out an innocent man’s life. For what and why, many still question…

Most of the crowd donned black clothing. Faces were grim and sombre while some were teary-eyed. I stood amongst the crowd, filled with awe that this was one vigil that was a far cry from all the others I had attended. The sense of purpose and urgency could be seen in how some brought one-foot candles (not one, but two) and held them together with posters calling for justice for TBH.

There were citizens from all walks of life from different ethnic backgrounds who stood close together not just in bodies but in their hearts as well. People were not bothered about the hot atmosphere on that starless night. It seemed as though the stars also snuffed out their lights out of sorrow at the memory of Teoh Beng Hock. A young man wearing a turban shouted in a spirited manner “Justice For Teoh Beng Hock” many times and soon the crowd echoed those words in a growing crescendo.

As I stood there listening to the various speakers of the night (Ayer Itam (DAP) assembly person Wong Hon Wai, Seri Delima (DAP) assemblyperson RSN Rayer, Penang Municipal Councillor Ramlah Bee Asiahoo , MP for Tanjung and State Executive Councillor Chow Kon Yeow), a feisty woman in her fifties standing beside me was complaining loudly about the MACC statement which she condemned as too late and too hypocritical. Thereafter, she proclaimed that she was planning to speak up one day at the Speakers’ Corner.