KUCHING - PKR state chief Baru Bian and Batu Lintang assemblyman See Chee How are back safe and sound after leading about 100 Sarawakians to support the Bersih 2.0 call for clean and fair elections in Kuala Lumpur.
Although both men suffered tear gas and were drenched with chemical-laced water, the experience of being there fighting for the rights of the people was well worth it, they said.
As Baru put it, "I am proud to have tasted tear gas and I am glad to be part of the rakyat’s voice.”
Taib Mahmud, your days are numbered!
PKR Sarawak, he assured, recognises that the rakyat or citizens are no longer afraid to stand up for their rights.
Even Sarawak, which has been down-trodden and trapped in poverty for so long, was ripe for a full-fledged people's uprising especially if Chief Minister Taib Mahmud continued to ignore the people's demands for reform and fairer distribution of wealth, Baru said.
The Ba' Kelalan assemblyman is sure Bersih - though faraway in KL - will ignite Sarawakian's taste for new politics and inspire them to claim greater responsibility for their own lives.
"These are major shifts in trends and Taib Mahmud should never take it for granted that society will remain the way it was when he took over. The writing is on the wall for him, not just for the BN federal government," Baru told Malaysia Chronicle.
Indeed, Bersih is still a hot topic in Sarawak and the favourite discussion at the coffee-shops that dot the East Malaysian state. People here are agog that ordinary citizens like themselves could take on the might of the federal government and emerge victorious.
According to Baru, the Bersih 2.0 rally in KL was peaceful and the rakyat would have remained non-violent and peaceful if not for the police over-reaction. It was the FRU rushing at the crowd and firing tear to scatter them that caused the chaotic conditions.
“The participants were waving flags, God-fearing, patriotic citizens who wanted nothing more than a peaceful expression of their frustration of the status quo and there was nothing violent about them,” said Baru.
Describing it as an eye-opener, Baru said he was amazed to see so many different races, age groups, and religious backgrounds at the rally. Everyone he talked to shared the same purpose – to show solidarity and unity for free and fair polls. When he asked why, they said it was the only way to "get rid of the BN".
“It was even more amazing to see the rakyat helping one another after the water cannons and tear gas attacks," said Baru.
People are the bosses
See Chee How, who is an old hand at rallies and was once detained by the Burmese military junta for protesting the detention of Aung San Suu Kyi way back in the 80s, is a man full of passion for human rights.
Being in the NGOs for most of his adult life, See said the time has come for the government to get a clear message that they are supposed to work for the poeple and not the people for them. And it was clear, the people wanted clean and fair elections.
“This is probably the first time that a non-partisan campaign of civil societies has undergone such a prolonged and sustained campaign of more than 2 months, attracting national attention and eager anticipation," See told Malaysia Chronicle.
He said the PKR-led team was concerned when five Sarawakians were arrested during the Saturday rally. Although all have since been released and back in the Land of the Hornbills, See said the bullying tactics used by the federal authorities will make them more determined to push for change.
Even in Sarawak, See is often organising small rallies - sometimes on his own - to help owners of NCR or native customary rights land to fight for their entitlement. Many Sarawakians have watched helplessly while their land is ‘stolen’ right under their noses by corrupt state government officials.
Birth of a new force
Baru and See said the experience from the KL rally has not only humbled them but also hardened them as leaders to never give in. They dismissed the violence they experienced first-hand as "nothing".
What the rally has shown Sarawakians and all Malaysians is that even if discussion with the authorities fail, the people need not give up. Malaysians can still pursue their ideals through non-violent street demonstrations and this is one way to prove to the authorities that they mean business, the PKR leaders said.
As both men said, Saturday’s Bersih rally was never intended to be a people's uprising to topple the BN government. It was the BN government who stirred up the storm by whipping up all sorts of obstacles to suppress the rally.
If they had left it alone, it would have ended in a couple or hours or so, especially if the police had helped to co-ordinate crowd control rather than bash their way through.
But the milk has been split and the people are angry and having tasted the exhiliration of their own power, the BN would be wise to recognize a new force has been born.
Date of birth, July 9, 2011. Name of force: Bersih 2.0.
- Malaysia Chronicle