New Sport in KL

By Sembang-Sembang Forum

How could I not make that trip? For almost a month,  Najib had been promoting it while Khairy and Ibrahim Ali were equally enthusiastic in their invitations. The police and that fat cat at the transport company made it appear as though an obstacle challenge run was being hosted in KL. After all, I’ve always wanted to try that new sport.

On the eve of the rally, the bus dropped me off Pudu Station. No check points along the North-South highway.

People from the East coast got it tough. Every car was checked. People were questioned as to why they wanted to go into the city and were required to provide the addresses where they were going stay in KL. Many cars were sent back. In Gombak, there was a four-hour long queue. No buses were running from Bentong.  Incredibly, a couple even paid RM 72.00 each for a taxi ride from Bentong to KL. 

Since China Town is near to the Merdeka Stadium, I decided to stay there even though I knew it would be a police fortress and possibly a mass detention centre the next day. 

I shared a room with an old and two new friends. By midnight, we heard that the Special Branch were checking the hotel guest lists and were going from room to room looking for Bersih T-shirts.  Fortunately, they did not raid our hotel. By midnight, Kampong Baru mosque had been blocked off. 

The next morning, meeting arrangements had still not been finalised. Text messages were flying around. The three original meeting places were heavily blockaded. Sogo and Dewan Bandar KL had hundreds of police patrolling the area. The National Mosque was shut down. Nine persons had been arrested at Masjid Jamek nearby that morning.  

People were milling around in China Town. By now, Police and SB were everywhere. Nobody paid them much attention anyway. Only a few shops were open. By noon, Jalan Sultan and Petaling Street were jam packed. Then we heard that the Unit Amal, the advance group of PAS, had started to march from the Pasar Seni just a block away. 

Some groups from across the river were blocked off  from joining us. Tear gas was fired. By 1.00pm Jalan Sultan had become another starting point. The streets were full and people had to move towards Kota Raya-Pudu junction. The crowd filled the junction to the brim for half an hour but could not move towards Bukit Bintang as the FRU ( riot police) had blocked off the road in front of Tung Shin Hospital. Khairy Jamaluddin and his gang were at Bukit Bintang.  

Soon, a helicopter was hovering above us. 

Another police team with acid cannons and tear gas arrived at the Maybank building, sandwiching the crowd in between. Chemical-laced water that was sprayed into  the crowd reached as far as the main entrance of Maybank. Tear gas was fired right into the crowd. A boy was badly gassed and had to be rushed to the hospital. 

As the crowd retreated into the back alley opposite the Pudu Bus Station and behind Tung Shin Hospital,  more tear gas was fired into the back alley. I saw four canisters fired into a compound next to the hospital. A group of 20 odd  policemen began to shout and arrest people. I was among the last few to run into the the waste land in front of the Bursa Malaysia with the police hot on our heels. 

The rain provided a brief respite for the stinging pain we suffered from the tear gas. The crowd walked along Jalan Raja Chulan and Jalan Sultan Ismail. At each junction, they were  joined by more groups who had been broken off earlier. We soon become a one kilometer long train of protesters along the road, attracting onlookers from hotels and staff. Some tourists even joined us. By now the crowd had regained their spirit and shouting “Bersih, Bersih! ”, “ Hidup Rakyat!”, “ Reformasi!”, “Allah Akhbar!”. 

A dozen policemen nearby smiled and readily posed for some to take their photos.

“Senyum, muka akan naik Facebook nanti!” (“Smile, your photo will be up in Facebook later!”) A traffic policeman stopped his bid Suzuki bike at the junction and let the crowd walk into Jalan Ampang.  

There we were met by another equally long trail of protesters. The people were jubilant! We had regrouped! Everyone yelled and clapped joyfully. That was the the peak of the march when spirits were high and hearts united. 

A police van carrying officers was given right of way while the crowd clapped and laughed while someone shouted “ Turun, Turun!” to invite them to join us. 

By now the crowd stretched endlessly. It seemed as though the trail of protesters was two kilometres long. We stopped at the KLCC Junction and sang the national anthem”Negara Ku” and shouted more slogans rejoicing that we had had a successful march. All in all, we had walked in the centre of KL for four hours and had withstood the numerous brutal attacks by the police. 

Finally regrouped and re-united as one determined people, KL was ours to walk with no cars on the roads. The rain had cleared the polluted air of KL. Women and men of all races and ages gave one another salts when facing the assault of a tea gas attack. Willingly, they shared water to rinse off the acid sprays, some arguing and holding out the police to let others escape. In between, others could be seen sharing biscuits, getting to know each other and  and generally happy that we had gathered because we shared the same aspirations.

Half an hour later, another acid cannon truck appeared and started spraying at the crowd that ran into KLCC garden, Avenue K and further down the road. Twelve mounted police on their horses complete with riot gear and baton trotted down the road. At Ampang Park, another team of FRU were waiting across the road. Soon, the crowd began to disperse to go home. We had made our point. Mission accomplished.

As we travelled home by bus, we received an sms that 59 year-old Encik Baharuddin bin Ahmad, husband of Puan Rosni Malan ( Head of Women’s section at Setiawangsa Branch, PKR) had collapsed and died after tear gas was fired into the crowd at KLCC. Earlier, we also heard news that Anwar Ibrahim was injured and fell while his bodyguard was hit in the face by a tear gas cannister fired directly at them.  

Undeniably, the rakyat had been orderly and peaceful throughout the rally. Those who were there bear witness to the widespread violence committed by the police.