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The Star - Sharing the Nation - For goodness sake, I saw good, felt good (6 September 2015)
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For goodness sake, I saw good, felt good

What the rally really showed was this. Malaysians of all races can gather in one place in huge numbers for a single cause – in peace.

I HAVE decided that instead of feeling angry or even sad for all those who hurl all manner of accusations against Bersih 4, I will only feel sorry for them.

Sorry that they believe all those wonderful Malaysians at the rally are “unpatrio­tic”.

Sorry that they believe that those protesting against corruption and calling for clean government and clean elections are traitors to the country and government of the day and therefore their blood is halal.

Sorry that they saw it as a Chinese funded and organised event and Chinese effort to flex their muscle in a show of disdain to the Malays.

Sorry that they saw it as a lack of respect for National Day.

If only they were there on the ground, in tune and in touch with the pulse of the rakyat who came out by the tens of thousands.

They, too, would be moved by this display of love for the country. Like the past two Bersih rallies I had attended, this, too, was a moment to savour – of the possibility of Malaysia when we are not divided by race and religion, when we are all together with the same objective to fight for a better country.

To stand up for clean elections, clean government, the right to dissent, to strengthen parliamentary democracy and to save our economy. Who could be against that?

I have no problems with those who chose not to join the rally. But to accuse those who attended of ­unpatriotic behaviour, of treason and even constructing it as a Chinese plot to undermine the Malays, well, that is really laughable.

My various WhatsApp groups were buzzing with shared information, pictures and sentiments. All of us felt more patriotic than ever before, felt such overwhelming love and care for the country and bonding with fellow citizens over the Bersih weekend.

On Sunday, many sang Negaraku, not once, but several times, waiting for the countdown. Hardened friends cried in that moment of togetherness.

Unfortunately, I could not be there as I had a flight to catch. I sat alone in a taxi to the airport and sang Negaraku in my heart as the clock struck midnight, imagining myself holding hands with friends at Dataran Merdeka. Never before had I felt the urgent need and duty to sing Negaraku.

So, I am sorry that those leaders in high places who could have felt this much love and care for the country among the rakyat saw none of this, felt none of this. Instead they imagined more enemies, manufactured more threats and spewed out more absurd allegations.

I landed in Casablanca midday on Monday and opened up over 100 WhatsApp messages with links and pictures.

I cried when I saw the picture of Chinese and Indian rally goers pouring mineral water from bottles to help Muslims do their ablutions for prayers on the streets.

I cried at the sight of rows and rows of Muslims kneeling down on the streets, praying. A friend had captioned the picture, they must all be Chinese Muslims, then, since supposedly there were few Malays at the rally.

On Saturday, the rally MC could not get the vuvuzelas quiet while speakers were speaking, but on Sunday, the blowing stopped the moment Muslims lined up to pray – on Jalan Raja, on Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman.

Nobody had to tell them to. They understood, they respected. And that sound of silence became a moment for reflection and contemplation for all those present.

A friend wrote about a pakcik from Bukit Mertajam wearing a white kopiah who wanted a picture with her because he wanted to send home a muhibbah photo to his family.

My Chinese friend entrusted her two young sons and daughter-in-law for my squiring on Saturday in what was their first attendance at a street rally.

Other first-timers also wanted guidance and support. But in no time they abandoned me, as they got into the swing of things and joined the massive crowd along Jalan Tun Perak chanting “Bersih, Bersih”, heading to Dataran Merdeka.

Yes, they were overwhelmingly Chinese. But as we edged closer to Dataran and merged with the crowds coming from Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman, many more Malays were in the midst.

And almost all the vendors making brisk sales on water, ice cream, Bersih headbands, vuvuzelas and other noise makers seemed to be mostly Malays.

And many more Malays made the effort to turn up on Sunday with placards, announcing “Melayu di Sini”, “Aku Melayu, Aku Bersih”.

A colleague saw many of her pro-Umno schoolmates at the rally. All first-timers too. And many more who did not attend had already changed their Facebook profile picture to the Bersih yellow. So even if they are not in the streets, they still believed in the cause.

I know for a fact there were Umno members at the rally and most likely many more came out after Tun Mahathir made an appearance, not once but twice.

But in the end, for most of us in the streets, it did not matter if there were more Chinese than Malays at the rally – we were all citizens determined to fight for a better Malaysia.

What the Bersih 4 weekend showed was that Malaysians can gather in huge numbers, in peace. There was not a single red ominous FRU truck in sight – unlike past rallies.

There were no incidents of confrontation and Bersih security marshals made sure protesters did not cross the barricades.

But for me, most importantly, Bersih 4 showed that increasingly, Malaysians are losing their many fears – fear of authority, fear of breaking laws designed to oppress them and violate their fundamental liberties, fear of the Other, fear of change.

This grand game-changing national movement is telling those who lord over the people: You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.

Yes, change is slow, but change is inevitable. And the streets of Kuala Lumpur over the Bersih 4 weekend showed a new future is possible for Malaysia. And it is the rakyat who will lead, and the politicians will follow.

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