Bersih attempted murder: Trapped, ambushed, gassed!

 I was lazing around at home after work, I got a call from my friend, N Surendran saying that my name was on the list of 91 individuals who were restricted from entering Kuala Lumpur on 9 July 2011. Nothing surprising. It was just that I couldn’t wrap my mind around the paranoia displayed by the government over a planned peaceful assembly to demand for clean and fair elections. This whole scare tactic definitely was funnier than any comedy show I’d ever watched on TV.
It was 9 July 2011, the day plethora of right thinking Malaysians and I had been waiting for. It felt like waking up to Aidilfitri morning. Serenity filled the air. Peaceful. I packed my bag. Salt, checked. A bottle of water, checked. My friends, Latheefa Koya, Eric Paulsen and Renuka Balasubramaniam and I went to KL Hilton to meet with the rest of the group.
When I got into the room, I saw Bersih leaders, Ambiga Sreenevasan, Maria Chin Abdullah, Wong Chin Huat, Haris Ibrahim and Zaid Kamarudin, all getting ready to lead the march. I also saw Pakatan Rakyat leaders, Anwar Ibrahim, Wan Azizah, Lim Kit Siang, Hadi Awang, Tian Chua, William Leong, Nurul Izzah and our respected national laureate, Pak Samad Said, standing firm next to Bersih leaders, to give their undivided support to the cause.
I looked at my watch, it was 1.30pm. After finishing our Zohor prayers, we put our yellow Bersih t shirts on. The room was filled with laughter, the worrying thoughts on the highhandedness of the police in dealing with this planned peaceful assembly seemed to fade away for a little while. I could feel the strong conviction to freedom, freedom to march on, to assemble peaceably to demand for free and fair elections. We couldn’t wait to meet with the rest of right-thinking Malaysians so that we could walk together to Merdeka Stadium on this historic, most awaited day.
We started marching on, we held each other’s arms so tightly. We chanted “Bersih!Bersih!Bersih!”.A strange feeling suddenly embraced me. A pleasant strange feeling. I believed this was what solidarity, strength and conviction felt like.
I was holding Wan Azizah’z right arm. Nurul Nuha was holding my left arm. As we were walking, I could feel more hands were holding my arms, the hands of amazing people I hardly knew. When I looked around, all I could see was police. My heart was beating so fast, in between the chanting and the thought that all of us would not make it to Merdeka Stadium as it was almost certain that we would be arrested, judging from the heavy police presence around us.
From KL Hilton, we proceeded to KL Sentral train station. At this juncture I kept asking myself why we weren’t arrested yet. The police were there, surrounding us, waiting and watching our single move. I just ignored the question that was lingering on my mind. From KL Sentral train station, we had to go down the escalator to the underpass to reach the main road.
After going down the escalator, we then walked through the dark and confined underpass. Suddenly I heard the wail of police siren behind us, there was a police truck that was trying to pass. We stopped and gave way to the police truck. We then continued walking.
As we were still walking in the underpass, people in the forefront abruptly stopped. It was puzzling as to what was happening. I saw Anwar Ibrahim turning around and asking the people who were standing in the back to step back. I was still puzzled as to what was happening at that particular moment. In a split second, I saw the dark and confined underpass filled with tear gas. I couldn’t breathe. My eyes were all teary. Everyone was coughing. Panic struck.
A trap
I kept asking myself these questions. “Why did they fire the tear gas directly at us while we were still in the confined underpass? Why didn’t they arrest us right before we headed for the underpass? Could this be a trap?”.
Every one ran towards the escalator to escape. Haniza Talha fell on the floor and Sharifah Shahidah picked her up. I saw one man was holding Lim Kit Siang’s left arm, trying to help him to get onto the pavement. I quickly grabbed Lim Kit Siang’s right arm and helped him get onto the pavement.
I was coughing really hard. It was getting harder to breathe. The only thing that was flashing on my mind was the thought of death. The voice inside my head was getting louder and louder-“God, I’m going to die, I won’t be able to join any peaceful assembly in the future as this would be my last. How are people going to survive this brutality in the future?”
The use of tear gas on us, in the confined underpass was severely criminal. The thought that the same tear gas would be used on peaceful demonstrators in future peaceful assemblies was killing me. I dragged myself to the wall and leaned against it. I was struggling to find air. A woman gave me water and held my hands. We were trapped in the middle of the underpass, we couldn’t escape from where we came. It got harder and harder to breathe.
I tried to drag myself to the escalator in my attempt to escape but my steps were getting heavier. I saw tear gas was also shot from the back of the underpass and that made me realize that I would never make it to the escalator. The dark and confined underpass was filled with tear gas which was shot from both directions, leaving every one trapped in the middle.
I just stopped as I couldn’t move, not even an inch towards the escalator. At this point in time, I couldn’t open my eyes. Everything around me seemed so distant. I couldn’t hear a thing.
Then there was light
Light, I suddenly saw light in between the wooden walls that were blocking off the adjacent construction site. I told myself to get to the light and try to escape. I suddenly saw Wan Azizah and Elizabeth Wong running towards the construction site. I ran towards them and we managed to get through the gap in between the wooden walls into the construction site.
We ran and crossed the main road in the rain. We stopped to catch our breath. We were still coughing. Our eyes and skin were all red. I couldn’t touch my skin as it was burning. Two American journalists were standing next to us. They too were hit by the tear gas. One of the journalists asked us “Are you okay? The police were brutal”. I replied “Welcome to Malaysia!”. There were also a few men standing around us, passing a bottle of water to us. Elizabeth Wong drank the water and threw up as she couldn’t stop coughing.
We then sought refuge at a chapatti shop nearby. At the shop, I started calling everyone to ask whether they were alright. Some were severely injured, some were arrested and some managed to escape.
I received calls from my lawyer friends, Farhana Abdul Halim and Afiq Mohd Noor who were on their way to the police station to give legal representation to peaceful demonstrators who got arrested. They told me that they were caught in a middle of sea of people, attacked by tear gas and water cannons in Puduraya.
The whole city was under siege.
Why did they have to launch this brutal attack on us, the unarmed, peaceful citizens of this country?
Why did they have to launch this brutal attack on us, the unarmed, peaceful citizens who were just exercising our constitutional and democratic rights?
Why did they have to wage this war against us, the unarmed, peaceful citizens who were just marching on to demand for free and fair elections?
I might not have the answers to these questions but I am certain about one thing. We, the people have won this war the authority waged against us.
We stood tall in dignity, weathering this brutal attack, standing up for one belief, a belief that would never be taken away from us.
Yes, we, the people have won.

We have what appears to be one of the most inept, corrupt and foolish governments Malaysia has ever had the privilege of seeing in power. But is it really all that bad? Or is it that this government simply has no clue as to what to do or say in moments of crisis? Every time one occurs, as indeed one did in KUALK LUMPUR last week, the nation Marches helplessly as its leaders make a fool of themselves. Having been a journalist for three decades, one has seen worse, far worse governments, though not perhaps as corrupt. But never have I seen one that has both its feet so firmly in its mouth. 

Almost everyone who speaks for the UMNO has zero communications skills and, curiously, none of them, from the Prime Minister downwards, have chosen a single convincing person to speak on their behalf. Their speech writers are lousier. More often than not, they make things worse by what they say.

One would like to assume that the Najib administration has the best and brightest from among the government ranks to be ministers.

A view of Fayyadh’s head after the police attack in the KL Sentral tunnel during the Bersih rally July 9 2011

 Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim told The Associated Press on Wednesday that his three-party alliance could win general elections widely expected next year because its support has risen after a government crackdown on a rally for electoral reforms.
Anwar said in an interview that the recent opposition-backed demonstration had stirred public anger and greater political awareness over allegations of electoral fraud and the government’s refusal to allow large-scale street protests. Police fired tear gas and detained more than 1,600 people on July 9 when at least 20,000 Malaysians defied government warnings by marching in Kuala Lumpur to demand more transparency in election laws. ”We have gained new momentum,” Anwar told AP. “If we can sustain and increase this level of support … there are huge possibilities we can make it, we will win” the next elections. 

PKR has accused the police of attempting to murder Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim during the July 9 Bersih rally
Party leaders said that FRU personnel had fired tear gas canisters into a tunnel that Anwar, his bodyguard and other Bersih supporters were marching through.
They said policemen had aimed to kill Anwar who was pulled back and protected by his bodyguard who took a canister directly to his face, shattering his cheekbone.
“They aimed directly at Anwar’s head and a direct hit from one of these canisters can kill. We want this case classified as attempted murder,” PKR vice president N Surendran told reporters.
The 64-year old Anwar is well-known to be a thorn in the flesh of Prime Minister Najib Razak’s BN ruling coalition. A former Deputy Prime Minister, Anwar is regarded as a prime mover behind the Pakatan Rakyat coalition and the glue that holds the three parties PKR, PAS and DAP together.
In the runup to the rally, Najib and other BN leaders have accused him of master-minding the Bersih rally.
Lethal gas
Surendran had accompanied Anwar’s bodyguard Fayyadh Afiq Albakqry to the Dangi Wangi police headquarters to lodge a report on the incident. Subang MP Sivarasa Rasiah and other PKR lawyers were also present.
The bodyguard had sustained serious injuries and had to have 5 titanium plates inserted into his cheek. He was only discharged from the hospital just a day ago.
Almost a dozen canisters were fired into the tunnel and three, including Fayyadh and PAS’s Shah Alam MP Khalid Samad were hit directly in the head.
“The amount of tear gas fired could also have caused the air in the tunnel to become lethal if those gathered were not able to get out,” Surendran said.
Police denial
Police have denied they were involved and the ‘KL Sentral underpass incident’ a figment of the Pakatan Rakyat’s imagination.  The police are also probing complaints against themselves for police brutality during the Bersih rally, where thousands were injured and one left dead.
A Bar Council report has accused the police of having “arbitrarily, indiscriminately and excessively” fired from water cannons and launched tear gas canisters at close range and at eye-level to the demonstrators.
Bersih is a coailition of 62 top NGOs, whose aim was to gather citizens to march for free and fair elections. They and most Malaysians blame Prime Minister Najib Razak for reneging on his word to give them access to any stadium of their choice. The U-turn forced them to take to the streets after they had agreed to hold their raly in a stadium.   – Malaysia Chronicle

Last modifie

Anwar’s alliance captured slightly more than one-third of Parliament seats in 2008 polls, the worst electoral result for the long-ruling National Front since independence from Britain in 1957.
Anwar said he expects Prime Minister Najib Razak to hold early elections before the government’s mandate expires in mid-2013. Most analysts predict Najib will seek a fresh mandate early next year amid signs of a strengthening economy.
Najib has invested heavily in what the government calls an “economic transformation plan” since he took office in April 2009. But Anwar said that “other than slogans, there have been no changes.”
“People are clearly clamoring for justice and democratic rule. The ruling clique is in the last stages of resisting at all cost but I don’t think they can withstand the onslaught of the people and also the historical reality. Even the most authoritarian rule in the Middle East is changing,” Anwar said.
He said his alliance is in much better shape compared to 2008 and has demonstrated strong leadership in four states that it wrested from the National Front in 2008.
But he added that the opposition faces a struggle for support among the ethnic Malay Muslim majority in rural parts of Malaysia.
Many among the ethnic Chinese and Indian minorities have become strong opposition supporters in recent years, mainly because of complaints that the National Front discriminates against them in affirmative action policies that benefit Malays in business, housing, education and other sectors.
“We need to focus on the rural heartland, we need to go down to the ground and talk to” Malays, Anwar said.
The opposition leader stressed that he won’t let his ongoing sodomy trial distract him too much.
Anwar, 63, faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted of sodomizing a 25-year-old former male aide in 2008. He claims the charge is politically motivated but the government denies it.
“I don’t like the idea of being sent to jail again but some of my friends said it may help the cause,” he said, laughing. “I have decided to stay and fight, to endure the consequences.”
It is Anwar’s second time being embroiled in a sex trial. He lost his post as deputy premier in 1998 after being charged with sodomizing his family’s ex-driver and abusing his power to cover up his actions – both of which he denied. He was freed in 2004 after six years of imprisonment when a court overturned the sodomy conviction.

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