I wasn’t there on Saturday.
I was however constantly checking out the progress of the BERSIH sit-in through various social-media platforms, including Twitter and Facebook as well as some websites which provided updates from time to time.
In the morning it was like one huge festival. It was like the Rio carnival (without the samba, of course). I saw people converging, talking to each other, singing, walking around and taking pictures. I could also see police officers standing guard, looking at possible trouble-makers, talking to each other and manning their respective post.
There was an air of optimism. There were heart-warming moments, captured on camera, of people handing flowers and balloons to police officers, while their colleague looked on with amusement. There were people asking to pose with police officers and the latter obliged with a smile.
All these pictures of festivities – grudging as they might be - moved me to twit in the late morning, “Police acting with considerable restraint so far. The people are not the enemy. Syabas.” I tagged PDRMsia to that twit.
I have written about unity before. I have postulated that national unity exists on two levels, namely, situational unity and what I call the transcendental unity. And I was thinking, the Bersih rally, at least in the hours before 2pm on 28th April 2012, is a perfect example of what I had termed as situational unity.
When the people have one purpose in mind, they would instinctively move as one towards achieving that on e purpose. They would suffer hardship, readily go through inconvenience and sacrifice time and money to move together for that one purpose. And they would stand side by side with complete strangers, regardless of breed and creed; regardless of race and religion in the pursuit of that one purpose.
That is my theory in Dear Brother Anas. And the Bersih rally proves just that.
Events however took a turn for worse just after noon. Some rally goers broke the barricade and encroached on Dataran Merdeka. Suddenly the police and the Federal Reserve Unit started using the water cannon and tear gas. And all hell broke loose.
In a way – and I am speaking as a third party here, as I wasn’t there to have a first-hand experience – it could have been the result of a miscommunication, a non-communication even.
I do not know whether there was sufficient publicity about what would constitute the “bantah” itself; what would constitute the end of the rally and what the rally goers were supposed to do after it all ended.
It was all a bit of a confusion. The plan was to have a sit-in at – or rather, on – Dataran Merdeka. The authorities were having none of that. They obtained a Court order against that. They then set out barriers, barricades, barbed wires and razor barricades around Dataran Merdeka.
Then there was a statement by the police saying that the people will be allowed to converge at several meeting points as planned by Bersih. However, the statement also said that the police were going to take action if the people start moving towards Dataran Merdeka. Then there was a statement by Bersih’s Dato’ Ambiga saying that Bersih will comply with the Court order by not occupying Dataran Merdeka.
So what was the exact plan? Meet at the meeting points. And then what?
At a certain point of time, I read about Dato’ Ambiga addressing the crowd and declared the rally a success. She then asked the rally goers to disperse. Where did this take place? I do not know. And how many from the crowd managed to listen to or hear her request to disperse? I do not know.
All that we know is that the rally did not end even after that request by Dato’ Ambiga. There was a group of people who breached the barricade. According to an interview given by a friend of mine, Fahri Azzat, he was about 100 metres away from the barricade.
He saw a float consisting of the opposition leaders. Then he heard people saying “get in get in, it’s open” or something to that effect. He did not know what that meant although it was in his mind that perhaps the barricades had been removed. Then the police charged.
His interview is here.
I saw many video on YouTube. And many pictures posted on the internet.
Many of them are downright disturbing. There was a video of some people smashing a police car at a junction. There was another video showing a police car (probably the same police car which was being smashed) along Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman being driven into a crowd at Sogo. Then there were shouts that somebody was underneath that car and people were upturning the car although at the end of it, I could not see anybody under that car.
There was also a disturbing video of a group of policemen, all in uniform, assaulting a man who was arrested at a t-junction. That was painful to watch, to say the least. In addition, there were numerous accounts of post-arrest assaults.
Then on Twitter, there were twits of the person allegedly rammed by a police car (probably the police car in the video which I described earlier) had died. Then there were twits about a police gun having been snatched.
Quite surreal I must add was a twit saying the police gun was later recovered. I mean, how negligent can a police officer be to lose his gun. And how dumb the gun snatcher was to let that gun be recovered afterward?
The most disturbing twits which I had read later was the rumour that not one, but two policemen had died!
I shook my head in total disbelief at the crass nature of some of the statements made from both sides of the fence. At the sheer irresponsibility of it all. All in the name of expression.
In the middle of it all, I asked myself, what has happened to all of us, the people and the authorities? Have we abandoned reason and rationality? What has happened to humanity? Are we all so caught up with our perceived struggle and functions so much so that we are no more brothers and sisters of the same nation?
My optimism quickly swallowed by a sea of shocking acts of crime, I descended into a state of shock and disbelief. My twit reflected how I felt. At the end of it, I twitted, “I weep for this nation.”
Yesterday was Sunday. And this morning I have not recovered from my bout of depression.
I am trying to avoid reading any kind of news about Bersih. However, I know for sure that the blame game will start, if it hadn’t started in the first place.
The government will blame the opposition. The opposition will blame the government. There will be one side who blames the police for all the mayhem. The police will in turn blame the rally goers for being rowdy. Everything under the sun will start blaming Venus, the moon and Mars except for themselves.
Deputy Minister Dato’ Saifuddin Abdullah has reportedly said that the Bersih event had shown a nation angry and divided.
I say, apart from that, the Bersih rally reveals a nation which is not at ease with her people and on the other hand , a people which is suspicious of their nation. It shows that at times, all of us could lose our head and descend into some kind of a contagious sickness.
I just pray that soon, all of us would regain our collective consciousness; regain our rationality and reasonableness; regain that missing piece of humanity. And then perhaps we would sit down, with a cup of coffee in hand, and ponder whether we would want to continue with our waywardness.
Or whether we would want to heal this nation; get back on our feet and move forward as one people with one purpose.