Monday, April 30, 2012

They Were All Yellow – My Bersih 3.0 Story

”For you I'll bleed myself dry” - Yellow by Coldplay
Morning of 428. That was the song that was stuck in my head as I got ready to attend Bersih 3.0 rally. I put on my yellow t-shirt and sang ”oh yeah, they were all yellow”.

I wasn't there last year. When I read my friends' accounts of Bersih 2.0 and watched the video footage, I cried. I had my reasons not to be there and it was not because I didn't agree with the cause. So as I watched my friends and fellow countrymen got treated like pariah dogs running away from dog catchers, I died a little inside. There was one voice in particular, from the numerous videos posted, that still haunts me till today. A young lady crying out to the police, ”Is this what you stand for?! That you would hurt your own people?” Her voice was used in one of the Bersih 3.0 'trailers'. And the anguish in her voice echoed many of our sentiments. I on the other hand wanted to shout back (into the monitor nonetheless) ”That is not true!” Because if it is, my whole childhood would have been a lie. Let me explain.

My daddy served in the police force since he was 18, since the British colonial times. I grew up with the police around me. But none closer than the men and women of the Federal Reserve Unit (FRU). The riot police as people call them. You see, my daddy was heading one of the FRU units the last few years before his retirement. During Chinese New Year, FRU families will cook for us and help my family host 'open house'. FRU trucks will be parked in front of our house, dropping off policemen and women of all races. We were probably the only Chinese family that served rendang chicken and roti jala during this season. I understood the concept of 'muhibah' and of 1Malaysia way before Najib made it into an enterprise.
At times when my daddy couldn't pick me up from school, one of these FRU men will come by and make sure I got home safely. I grew up trusting that they will protect me. And they would do anything to make sure no one harmed me.

So understand this. On 428, when tear gassed was fired, and I had to run away from the FRU - the same people whom I trusted my life with - it broke my heart.


I'm sure by now you would have read all you could have on what went down that Saturday. You would have memorized the sequence of events blow by blow. And I will bear testament to all you have read and witnessed. Initially the atmosphere was fiesta like. I haven't felt such excitement from a crowd since World Cup Finals day in Paris back in 1998. However, when things changed for the worse as I was running away from the non stop tear gas ambush from Masjid Jamek to Central Market, I kept my eyes peeled for anything that would resemble the country I love. And here is what I witnessed.

People of all age, race and gender, turned to us and asked if we needed salt or water. We came ill prepared because we actually believed it wouldn't turn ugly this year. All we had was a hand towel. No one pushed, shoved or turned violent. No one looted, robbed or stole (I think even the common snatch thieves decided to put down their interest for the day for a bigger cause). We were all trying to disperse but couldn't because train services was stopped and tear gas was coming from all directions. But in the midst of it all, the beef noodle stall was still open for business and people stopped to eat. How Malaysian is that? Standing by the sidewalks eating bowls of noodles while the rest of us trying to find a way out of the 'war zone'.

As we walked towards Petaling Street, we came across DaiMaCai and Sports Toto shops that were still open. It's Saturday. So, life goes on, yellow shirt or not. I saw a few chinese uncles telling each other to stop from running away, they had to go buy number. Despite the mood of the situation, I couldn't help but laugh. I wanted to take a photo of them, but the tear gas was being blown at our direction so I had to keep moving.

We were walking towards the famous Air Mata Kuching stall in Petaling Street. My husband wanted one cup of that magic potion, so we went. There were tourists milling about the place, I think not really sure what is happening. As we were approaching the stall, another group of protesters ran pass us and shouted for us to go because more tear gas was coming. Immediately I could feel my eyes tearing again. I quickly covered my nose and mouth, and we ran into some back alley. By now, I was just fed up.

We came out at the other side of the alley, emerged at the other end of Petaling Street. "Do you still want the mata kuching or not?" I asked my husband. "Should we?!" He was hesitant to walk back into the same place where everyone was running out from. I said yes, took the towel and covered my face, and walked right back into Petaling Street. As we went 'against traffic', I had only one thing in mind. No, it's not that the air mata kuching was that awesome I had to risk getting arrested for. Is that I refuse to be terrorised in my own country by my own people. It's a free country. I will walk to the stall and get myself a drink, thank you very much. Eyes stinging, throat burning - I drank the mata kuching. 


Ok, trying to head to the Tau Fu Far stall next was a bit of a challenge. So we walked on towards Central Market, trying to get on the trains. I was finally able to Facebook, and quickly posted some of my thoughts and pictures. When we were going up, people told us that the trains had also been stopped at this station. I was surprised though, not because the train stopped, but how calm everyone was about it. I have seen worse reaction on a normal day from people during unexpected train breakdowns heading back from work. 


I got home safe and sound, back to reality. The next thought was, I needed to face the wrath of my daddy. Sunday when I 'debriefed' him and my family what went on, he explained about certain actions that was taken. For instance, trains had to stop because high voltage tracks and moving trains would have caused serious injuries to people who would jump on tracks trying to flee the scene. People were denied legal representation, and it was within a Police Act to do so for the first 24 hours. The debate went on for a bit and my mummy finally asked the mother of all questions, "So what did you all achieve that day?"


I tried to answer, but under my daddy's watchful eyes, meaningful words failed me. So I turned on YouTube and showed my parents the "Same Day Edit" video that most of my friends were sharing on social media. Stunned silence came after. Where I could not find my voice, 80000 other Malaysians help me speak up.


I am your typical Malaysian. A 4th generation Chinese born and raised in Malaysia. I am a mother of two young energetic children. I am your middle class average Jane Doe. I am a professional working 9 - 5. I studied here, married here, worked here and have never lived abroad. I did not go out on 428 because I have a terrible life. I did not go out because I am not loyal to my country or her rulers. I did not go out because I am a dumb wit bought by the opposition to cause trouble. I went because I love my country. I went because I am Malaysian. And thank you all who stood next to me that day to help me reaffirm that. 

35 comments:

zewt said...

Well done.

choen said...

Thank you for sharing.

JenKin Yat said...

it was an honour to be running away from tear gas with you..

Ramanathan said...

inspiring, thank you and salam to your father

vorac said...

I really urge that Malaysians stop talking about spilled milk by the government but start to think about what they want as a nation moving forward (education, job creation, cost of living and industry global competitivenes). Then get the demand to the politicians like how we did in bersih. Too much political fiasco going on and the country need to move on. Were lagging behind Korea and soon Indonesia.

Allen J. P. Stanley said...

Well said... Kudos to you!

melanie said...

Admire your courage and what u stand for... Well done!!

Antares said...

Extremely powerful personal account, Charmaine. Especially when you reveal that you are the daughter of a retired FRU officer who grew up viewing them as human beings - not killer robots programmed by a rogue regime to keep the riff-raff subdued, docile and forever underboot. Thank you!

cin2tan said...

YELLOW is the color of my true love's hair
In the morning when we rise (x2)
That's the time
That's the time i love the best .

yau said...

If this article not translated into mandarin and malay and share out,such a waste i can say. For the love of malaysia from every one, i beg the capable person do do.lastly to writer i would like to say thank you and KUDOSSSSSSSSS!

Jonathan CooL said...

Thank you for the inspiration, love of our country.

Suhaimi Saman said...

A true Malaysian that's what you are. Proud to have you amongst us.

Sibili said...

Proud of you.. thanks for sharing

PreciousPearl said...

thank you

SC NG said...

Thank you for sharing. Just a quick note, that something is legal (detaining people and not providing them representation) does not make it right. For a long time, slavery was legal.

Eric VAILLIER said...

Hi Charmaine

You have said everything I wanted to say in your last few lines did what I could not do on 428. Bravo to you!

Elaine

Charmvive said...

Thank you all for your kind words and encouragement :)

H J Angus said...

Hi Charmaine
Hope your parents might join you for Bersih4.0.
As a 60+ grandfather, I went to Bersih3.0 in JB but it was quite a tame affair for my second public rally.....the first was PPSMI in PJ but that was even less eventful!
The older generation have been cowered by all the laws and it is good to see so many young Malaysians like you standing up for what is right.

ef.ae said...

I know it feels awful to see the changes in something you grew up with. Perhaps you feel betrayed or sad but I'm sure your father felt something deeper. Hope your dad doesn't feel too heart broken about what he sees from those videos..

Zul said...

inspiring! Malaysian for Malaysia!

Mi$s Virgin said...

U can read my mind... I was about to write the same things and emotions and lines. But too frustrated and sad to do so. Thanks for having the time and strength to write these as it was exactly what every each Bersih 3.0 experienced. Shed tears to satisfaction that truth is revealed and Bersih made me love my people more.

Kevin Leversee at gmail.com said...

I am not partial to this- save for information given me by my friend Bala Pillai so thanks for this post

Emmanuel said...

Charmvive, thank YOU!!

hann said...

"People were denied legal representation, and it was within a Police Act to do so for the first 24 hours."

A slight difference: they must be given access to legal representation within 24 hours of arrest, and to deny that, the police must have good cause to believe that giving the arrestee access to a phone would jeopardise the investigation. The police must also complete the investigation within 24 hours, if they wish to hold the arrestee further, they must bring the arrestee to a Magistrate after 24 hours, to apply for a further period of remand of 4 days or 7 days, depending on the severity of the alleged offence.

Charmvive said...

Again, thank you all who read my story. I am moved by the sheer amount of people who can relate to it.

Just to address the issue of which some of you brought up about the detention without legal representation - I did not opine on whether it was right or wrong. It was merely a factual statement about my conversation with my dad. Rest assured, a debate did go on after ;)

aidila said...

Hi,

I'm a journalist with Malaysiakini. We're interested in republishing your piece on the Malaysiakini website. Would that be ok? I can be contacted at 03-2283 5567 or aidila@malaysiakini.com.

Do let me know.

Thanks.

Kevin said...

Were the trains stopped? I am certain that they were still running but the carriages did not stop at stations and the entrances to the stations were locked.

Please ask your dad - is that SOP as well?

adi said...

big thank you

i hope we all will mature more as our nation grow. I think the people ie the public has slowly domne this over time.

Let's see if politicians can grow as well.

Eddie G. said...

Thank you, Charmaine!

You are one of the (rapidly dwindling) reasons why I'm still proud to call myself a Malaysian!

dreality said...

I was there too and glad I went. I went back early with my elder brother who was unwell. That saved both of us from the gas and all. But if I had my way i would stay with all my fellow Malaysians for these are the few moments in our life we can be proud to be Malaysians. Its not the slogan that united us but a true love for the nation. Too bad our elected leaders and the likes are blind to that.

Andrew Gopal said...

Fantastic. Bravo. Real Inspiring man.

subina said...

thank you so much for being our voices!!.. I love Malaysia too.. how could someone not LOVE it.. IT'S FOOD, WEATHER, PEOPLE & everything else.. If only the POLITICIANS tried to be 'NOT SO CORRUPT' we will not be able to find MALAYSIANS ABROAD!!.. & if only the police last Saturday were like your dad & his friends,we wouldn't have to be so worried to see some changes in the next GE.

Farah.z said...

Hi Charmaine, I came across your blog post on Bersih and thought it brings out an important aspect to add to the many many accounts on Bersih that can be found all over the internet. Its easy to forget that the police, FRU officers are people too. Anyway, I tweeted about it and KUL Agenda picked up on it and its on their website http://paper.li/KULAgenda/1310308796 Just thought I should let you know.

:)

sukhvir said...

Thanks for nice post, i like your post and i wan't to share with my friends. please than visit-
A Complicated Online Marketing World.

IBU SUNARTI DI KALIMANTAN said...

Ass...saya tidak menyanka kalau saya sudah bisa sesukses ini dan ini semua berkat bantuan MBAH RAWA GUMPALA,saya yang dulunya bukan siapa-siapa bahkan saya juga selalu dihina orang dan alhamdulillah kini sekaran saya sudah punya segalanya,itu semua atas bantuan beliau.Saya sangat berterimakasih banyak kepada MBAH RAWA GUMPALA atas bantuan nomor dan dana ghaibnya,alhamdulillah kini saya sudah bisa membuka usaha kembali yang dulunya pakum karna masalah faktor ekonomi dan kini kami sekeluarga sudah sangat serba berkecukupan dan tidak pernah lagi hutang sana sini,,bagi anda yang punya masalah keuangan jangan sungkan-sungkan untuk menhubungi MBAH RAWA GUMPALA karna insya allah beliau akan membantu semua masalah anda dan baru kali ini juga saya mendaptkan para normal yang sangat hebat dan benar-benar terbukti nyata,ini bukan hanya sekedar cerita tapi inilah kisah nyata yang benar-benar nyata dari saya dan bagi anda yg ingin seperti saya silahkan hubungi saja MBAH RAWA GUMPALA di 085==316==106==111




(((( BUKA BLO DANA GHAIB DAN NOMOR GHAIB MBAH RAWA GUMPALA ))))







Ass...saya tidak menyanka kalau saya sudah bisa sesukses ini dan ini semua berkat bantuan MBAH RAWA GUMPALA,saya yang dulunya bukan siapa-siapa bahkan saya juga selalu dihina orang dan alhamdulillah kini sekaran saya sudah punya segalanya,itu semua atas bantuan beliau.Saya sangat berterimakasih banyak kepada MBAH RAWA GUMPALA atas bantuan nomor dan dana ghaibnya,alhamdulillah kini saya sudah bisa membuka usaha kembali yang dulunya pakum karna masalah faktor ekonomi dan kini kami sekeluarga sudah sangat serba berkecukupan dan tidak pernah lagi hutang sana sini,,bagi anda yang punya masalah keuangan jangan sungkan-sungkan untuk menhubungi MBAH RAWA GUMPALA karna insya allah beliau akan membantu semua masalah anda dan baru kali ini juga saya mendaptkan para normal yang sangat hebat dan benar-benar terbukti nyata,ini bukan hanya sekedar cerita tapi inilah kisah nyata yang benar-benar nyata dari saya dan bagi anda yg ingin seperti saya silahkan hubungi saja MBAH RAWA GUMPALA di 085==316==106==111