In so far as Bersih is concerned, I am done lecturing on the concept of fundamental liberties and the rights of the people. I am done writing about the true concept of social contract and the duties of the State. Because, really, knock, knock, knock, and there’s nobody home.
So today I am going to do what I have not done in the past, namely, I would post links to the websites which, I think, depict the best of Bersih. In fact, they depict the best of Malaysia, really (it proves that one does not have to engage a super high powered Jewish company and pay them millions to sell a concept such as 1 Malaysia. Bersih proves that when there is a unity of purpose, the people will unite).
Let me begin with part of the lyrics of Guns & Roses’ song, “Civil War”:
“What we’ve got here is failure to communicate.
Some men you just can’t reach…
So, you get what we had here last week,
which is the way he wants it!
Well, he gets it!…
Look at the shoes your filling
Look at the blood we’re spilling
Look at the world we’re killing
The way we’ve always done before
Look in the doubt we’ve wallowed
Look at the leaders we’ve followed
Look at the lies we’ve swallowed
And I don’t want to hear no more”
We have read so many accounts of the Bersih rally. The best among which, to me, are:
iii) BERSIH 2.0 – Was it worth it?, a note on Facebook by my facebook friend, one Abdul Haleem (telling us, among others, about the true kindness of Malaysians, super cool policemen and FRUs who made fun of his disability).
The most endearing story is of course about Auntie Anne, the Lady of Liberty
, a 65-year-old lady who took a bus alone, and walked all the way from the General Hospital to the rally centre. She took the prize for the best quote as well:
“Why do we have to feel so scared (and threatened) in our own home land… and by own countrymen?”
(At this point, Art posts three of his pick of the most enduring pictures of the Bersih rally, which he says would still adorn the Malaysian museum of liberty 100 years from now — Ed)
Pak Samad Said, our National Laureate, has been tireless in his efforts for Bersih. On the 9th, this 76-year-old walked and walked and walked, until he was stopped by the police near the Istana, where he had wanted to deliver the Bersih memorandum to His majesty the King. According to Pak Samad, His Royal Highness had said “can” when asked whether Bersih could deliver the memorandum on the 9th. Alas, it was not to be.
Pak Samad is, however, Malaysia’s new hero.
(Here, Art presents what to him is one of the best videos of the rally: “709-This is Our Land
” — Ed)
The saddest incident which took place during the rally was of course the death of Allahyarham Burhanudin Ahmad, who succumbed after the police fired tear gas at the crowd he was in. I will not fault neither Bersih nor the police for his death. However his brother alleged that the police actually refused to take him to the hospital while he was lying breathless on the ground. A van only came about one and a half hours later, by which time it was too late. If that was true, then it is tragic that the police had acted in such an inhumane way. I hope that’s not true.
Al-Fatihah to Allahyarham. May God bless his soul. But he died doing what he believed in. He died fulfilled.
Unfortunately, until the time of writing, there has been no utterance of condolence at all from any of our leaders in the government nor the people in the authorities, especially our police. All that was said is “do not blame the police for his death” and “the police was not responsible for his death” as well as “Bersih caused his death”.
Is it too difficult for us to put aside political differences for a while and be a normal human being? Can’t we in this hour of sadness for his family at least pay our respect to him and express our condolence to his family for their loss?
The strangest things about the Bersih rally are:
i) Ibrahim Ali, the war general without any war to go to, was nowhere to be seen. There was a report saying about 20 Perkasa members were seen having coffee at Taman Titiwangsa. The Bersih rally proves, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that Perkasa is not what it is made out to be. It has no supporters. It has no specific agenda other than to vomit racist rhetoric and cause havoc for nothing.
ii) Despite being officially declared by the Right Honourable Prime Minister that the silat guys are the 3rd line of defence, no silat fellow was seen strutting his or her stuff during the rally. Someone with a wicked sense of humour twitted that the silat guys just arrived at Pasar Seni at 8pm after the rally. LOL!
iii) No communist, foreign provocateur or Christian with subversive intentions were arrested by the police. There was also no call to overthrow the government either by locals nor foreigners. And yes, the USA had not landed in the middle of Dataran Merdeka together with Nato in order to help the Malaysians to overthrow the government. Minister Rais is wrong, yet again (err…when has he ever been right? Hahah…)
iv) Who was it who said that traders and stall owners would lose a lot of money if the rally went on? Traders and stall owners were making roaring business.
Among the most ridiculous things which were said about and after the rally are:
i) most participants were Malays and these Malays were being used by DAP. Some newspaper said the Malays were being used by PAS. Make up your mind guys. Ibrahim Ali said the rally goers were paid. I have only one question to these guys. What are you smoking? Give me a quarter please.
ii) Ambiga had committed treason and her citizenship ought to be revoked. Ibrahim Ali said that. Need I say more?
iii) The Prime Minister said Umno could muster 6,000 people on short notice. Bersih could only gather 6,000 people in 3 months. Umno could flood KL with millions if it wanted to. Ho ho…try give a permit to Bersih Mr Prime Minister and let’s see how many will turn up. By the way, Patriot could only bring 500 people.
The real victor is of course the people of Malaysia. Despite our well known rudeness on the road (well, let’s just wait till the balik kampung event starts next month), Malaysians of all races, faiths and walk of life walked in unison, side by side for one purpose. They chatted. They laughed together. They smiled at each other. They helped each other. They were civil even towards the police and FRUs who admittedly were just doing their job (but with considerable enthusiasm lah).
Speaking of being civil, whoever said that there would be a riot and destruction of property was proven, yet again, wrong. Not a single glass window broke. No car was smashed. No tong sampah was even overturned.
The one who were acting like hooligans were those people who were supposed to protect the civilians. Ambiga and gang were in the Brickfield underpass when they were stopped by a bunch of FRUs. Tian Chua went to them to negotiate. They responded by beating their shields. Tear gas were shot towards them. They retreated. Another bunch of FRUs came from behind and fired tear gas. They were trapped. Anwar and his bodyguard were injured (the bodyguard, badly). Khalid Samad was hit with a canister requiring 6 stitches.
What do you call that? No warning to disperse. No provocation by the group. And yet they were trapped between two groups of FRUs and fired with tear gas in an underpass. What do you call that? Sorry, in my book, that is criminal assault and battery. That is an attempt to injure. That is a crime.
Lastly, but surely not the least, the We-Have-Erection-Once-Every-5-Year award goes to…jeng jeng jeng… the IGP for saying that only 6,000 people joined the rally.
I suggest the IGP changes his glasses and call a new tender for calculators soon
|Flytilla activists detained in a prison bus at Ben Gurion airport [AJE/David Poort]
Almost immediately after landing at Ben Gurion, Israeli security officers quickly separated a group of passengers for extra scrutiny at passport control, among them most of the activists. They were then taken to a police bus parked outside the terminal where men and women were separated and were shoved into tiny cells in the converted touring car after being stripped from their belongings.
Ten men were crammed into a space of roughly 3X5 square metres that was infested with cockroaches. The activists on the bus started singing and chanting and demanded to see a lawyer, but were told by the Israeli border police to “shut up” and were threatened with violence if they didn’t.
“I don’t want to hurt you but I certainly will if I have to,” shouted an officer after opening the door to the cell in which the activists were held. When the singing and chanting continued, the border police officers started spraying water through the bars of the cell. “Dogs are treated better in my country,” Bilal, a 24-year-old student from Brussels, said.
Flying to Israel
Prior to this, while cruising at 30,000 feet over the Mediterranean towards Tel Aviv, a group of Belgians is discussing what could happen to them when they land in Israel.
The 23 pro-Palestinian activists, mostly university students from Brussels, are taking part in the ‘fly-in’ to Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport to protest Israel’s restrictions for travelling into the Palestinian territories.
In the back of a half-empty Boeing 747 the Belgians go through different scenarios, as the level of excitement in the group seemingly grows with every mile that the plane approaches its final destination.
“What if the Israeli border police separate us,” the activists ask each other. “What will happen if they take us to another terminal like they did with other activists who managed to arrive in Tel Aviv? Should we refuse to leave the plane? Or would we then be doing something illegal, which would negate the purpose of the protest?”
The Lufthansa Boeing started its journey earlier that day at Paris Charles de Gaulle, where almost one hundred French activists planning to participate in the same fly-in were banned from the flight after Israel blacklisted most of them.
During a stop-over in Frankfurt, the Belgians kept a low profile during check-in procedures. As the passengers assembled at the gate, smiles of triumph appeared on the faces of the activists who scattered themselves among other passengers. They made it on the flight.
After the plane took off in Frankfurt, Abdellah Boudani, a 24-year old political science student from Brussels, explains why he is taking part in the fly-in.
“It is clear that the powers that exist will not pressure Israel into changing its course. Apparently, change will have to come from grass root efforts and protests like these.
“The idea for this fly-in came from the Palestinians themselves who said to us; our rights are not respected, but your rights, as Europeans, are not respected either. When you want to visit Palestine, and land at Ben Gurion Airport, you have to lie if you want to visit the Palestinian territories. If you don’t, they will not let you in.
“So they invited us to draw attention to this injustice. It’s very simple. We’re not going to make any trouble. We are just going to Ben Gurion and tell them we’re here to visit Bethlehem in the West Bank. If law applies, Israel will do the rest.”
Many within the group do not know each other or only met two weeks ago in Brussels during the final briefing on how to conduct the protest.
Among the group is Fathallah Legsaï, a 48-year-old taxi driver from Brussels and father of three. He is accompanied by his 14-year old daughter, Cherine, who seems as eager to participate in the debates on board as the others.
Like most others in the group, Hajar, a 26-year old translator from Brussels, said she has never been to Israel and Palestinian territories.
“We are still very well informed because of all the news coming from the region. You cannot escape it. Now we want to see it for ourselves.”
Most of the activists had their plane ticket sponsored by people who wanted to contribute to the cause but were not willing to participate or could not get the time off work.
“That’s why there are so many students in our group,” Hajar explained. “A woman I don’t even know paid 400 euros for my ticket and my aunt the remaining 100 euros.”
Taken to jail
After being detained at Ben Gurion airport and placed in a bus where they were held for four hours, the bus carrying the activists finally moved and drove the group to a prison facility near Beer Sheva in the Negev desert, a two hour drive from the airport.
|Flytilla activists detained in roach-infested prison bus at Ben Gurion airport. [AJE/David Poort]
Submitting to their fatigue after skipping a night of sleep, the detainees disembarked the prison bus and were guided through one of the prisons narrow corridors filled with prison guards, some of whom were filming or taking pictures of the new arrivals.
The sixteen men in the group were again separated from the women and were put into one small holding cell prior to being processed as prisoners in the new Ela prison facility.
Having been crammed into the bus for six hours, many of the detainees fell asleep on the concrete floor of the cell after finally being able to lie down. Later, each person was again frisked and brought to the actual prisoners’ area, where they met with a psychologist and a doctor.
The detainees were given breakfast and a bag containing slippers, clean prison outfits, soap, and toothpaste and a brush. Each one was allocated a bed bunk, four to a cell.
After eating breakfast, Fathallah’s daughter Cherine suddenly appeared in the men’s area and ran towards him, leading to a tearful reunion. Due to her young age, the minor was allowed to remain with her father.
Cherine is the youngest of Fathallah’s daughters. “She is the youngest, but at the same time the most mature,” Fathallah said. “She causes trouble, skips school and is a rebel. She has a very strong personality. I took her with me on this trip to show her that there are a lot of deprived people in this world.”
“She just told me after breakfast that after experiencing this, she wants to go back to school and study international law. This has been a life-changing experience for her.”
Later, the detainees were individually called in for a meeting with Israeli immigration officers who asked them to sign declarations in which they would promise not to go to the Palestinian territories in the future and refrain from causing trouble or taking part in protests. In some cases, the declarations were also deportation forms.
Among the few who were released into Israel, Gadiza Bouazani, a 30-year-old social worker from Utrecht in the Netherlands, was mistakenly scooped up by the Israeli airport security. Tel Aviv was meant to be the starting point of a four-week backpacking tour of the Middle East. “My dark skin and black curls made them think I belonged to the group of Arabs among the activists. I am shocked at the way we have been treated and I might just want to go back home after this.”