Sunday 2 September 2012

Dataran gathering gave me new hope

I have started questioning, and what I see in my beloved land saddens me.


By Christine SK Lai

Why on earth would thousands of people come out of their homes to join thousands of other strangers on the streets, risking possible arrest in an assembly declared illegal?

Why would many still dress up in yellow, knowing full well this would immediately ‘mark’ them out as easy targets amongst the crowd, should provocation break out?

I am talking about the ordinary Malays, Chinese, Indians and others, some coming from out-of-state, who spilled over Dataran Merdeka and its surrounding areas on Aug 30, 2012, from 10pm onwards.

There was no colourful parade to cheer, no fiery VIP ‘leaders’ making ‘ra-ra-ra’ rousing speeches, no big-time performance to be entertained by, and hey, no free food!  No one paid them anything to come. Many probably had to battle after-work traffic jams to turn up.

Many, like us, would also have suffered the darn inconvenience of having to go on a merry-go-round chase, rushing to catch the last LRT home after the event (we were told as we tried to board at Pasar Seni that only Masjid Jamek was open).

Heck, I didn’t even get to hear any poetry recited. All I  heard was the cacophony of that noisy thing called vuvuzela continuously blasting the night air.

It was such a motley crowd. Beside me sitting on the kerb was a Pakcik. Behind me a whole family, with baby in pram. Parents were towing kids carrying balloons and illuminated plastic swords.

Youngsters cruised by me, sporting colorful Mohawk wigs (the teacher in me was so tempted to get a handful for my kindergarten children!) Police personnel were calmly walking around in the midst of the crowd, the officers looking smart in their uniforms, whilst the rank-n-file were conspicuous in their very bright yellow overalls (what an ironic touch!) .

The only inkling that someone ‘special’ had arrived was when people would suddenly surge towards a particular area now and then, like bees attracted to honey, cameras raised in the air. But I wasn’t there for the politicians or the politics.

Silent unease

I was there for the first time in my 52 years of life to celebrate my nation’s independence day. What took me so long to haul myself off my comfy chair at home and sweat it out for some four hours, just to mill around aimlessly in the middle of a tar road?

Surely I can find better, more productive things to do with my time. Of course I can, so can the thousands of Malaysians who chose to be at Dataran Merdeka on Aug 30, 2012.

Well, I have to confess, I have never thought much about what it means to call myself a Malaysian, until these last couple of years, when so many events happening have forced me to take a good hard look at the things I have oft taken for granted.

I have started questioning, and what I see in my beloved land saddens me.

That’s the only reason I chose to come out as a member of the Malaysian public this Merdeka day. I suspect there are many others who feel like me; and that’s why they took the trouble to be present.

Amidst what should be a time for joyous celebration, there seems to be an under-current of silent unease floating around. We smile at each other, recognising in each other’s eyes a certain ‘look’ that says, “Yea, I know too, so I am with you on this one.”

No words are necessary really. We don’t need anyone to shout about unity, justice, peace or national reconciliation (or the lack of it), we don’t need to carry bold banners or mouth nice-sounding slogans, but we do need to take a personal stand for it.

Me, I just want to be able to say before I die, I stood up for freedom for the land I was born in, raised up in and would probably be buried in, even if it’s just this once. There are times when we don’t get a second chance to be counted for, and Aug 30, 2012 is a date I want recorded in my life history.

New hope

I don’t know how long I was sitting on the kerb. But when I finally got up, what I saw gave me new hope for better Merdeka days to come.

The group of us had arrived on the grounds early, there wasn’t much of a crowd then. But by the time I stood up to stretch my legs (which was about 11 pm), I saw people packing the area around Jalan Raja Laut/Jalan TAR.

So many many it looked like a flowing, moving stream. Against the backdrop of bright neon-lit trees along the road, it was a beautiful sight. It struck me as what I would term as one of those ‘significant moments’ in life, when you realise you are looking at something seemingly ordinary but so profound in meaning, that it will remain forever etched in the mind.

I ‘saw’ the true 1Malaysian people, moving towards a tomorrow that holds hope for each one to live in, where all can enjoy the richness and abundance of this land we call our own.

More than any other rally (and I have attended all the other Bersih-organised ones), I think Himpunan Janji Bersih 2012 speaks volumes about the maturity of Malaysians.

Nothing happened – that may a disappointment for some – yet to me, that’s the greatest thing that can happen, for when thousands upon thousands can gather without ‘anything’ happening, it means people can ‘shout’ a message just by turning up.
d bless Malaysia.

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