A Kuala Lumpur native all my life, I was figuring out which was the best route to navigate my car to attend the Bersih rally at Dataran Merdeka on Saturday. Thought I ought to do my bit for the Bersih cause which I felt was just.
Because of a thunderstorm at about 2.30pm or so, I had no problems driving to the Bank Negara roundabout. The idea was to park my car somewhere nearby and take a walk to Dataran Merdeka. But when I arrived there, there was hardly anyone around save for policemen. Upon inquiring where everyone was, I received the reply that all had already marched to the Istana.
The rain soon abated and I figured the best way forward in the midst of a massive traffic jam was to find my way to Muzium Negara and park my car there. Thankfully, keeping to the left-hand side of the lane along the ever busy Jalan Istana, I reached the Muzium car park in quick time.
While I was walking on the road to the palace, behind me I saw a few gentlemen alighting from three cars and one of them, wearing a blazer, was walking in a hurry to the same destination I was also headed. The perfect gentleman that I am, and as it was still drizzling, I thought I ought to share my umbrella with the gentleman in the blazer who was obviously in a hurry, escorted by his cohorts.
I guess he was surprised that I extended to share my umbrella with him. He introduced himself as Dr (Syed) Azman (Syed Ahmad) and I reciprocated and introduced myself as Ronnie. These days, you could easily identify a PAS supporter.
Nonetheless, I asked him, "Are you from PAS?" He nodded and replied, "Yes, I'm from PAS and I am the chief of the party's international bureau." Then he pointed to his leather-bound folder, and said, "See this? This is the petition which we are sending to the King." Wow!
We were walking at a furious pace towards the palace, as obviously he was in a hurry as he said they (the leaders) are waiting for this memorandum to be handed over to the palace. As we were walking, I quickly got initiated as a "member" of the Bersih cause when for a few seconds, Dr Azman asked me to hold the memorandum while he was rummaging to retrieve something from his jacket with both his hands. I literally had 'a hand' in the Bersih cause!
We quickly reached the massive crowd, all gathered on both sides of the road leading to the palace gates. The scene was a sea of yellow and many were drenched from the earlier downpour. Immediately, upon reaching the crowd, Dr Azman's men pleaded, "Please, please make way, the memorandum has arrived for the King!"
Just like Moses' ability to part the Red Sea to create a passage for his flock to cross, I saw immediately all those seated or squatting on the road, in a matter of moments, opened a path for Dr Azman to walk through. Dr Azman waved a quick goodbye to me to indicate his thank you. But I thought this was too exciting an event to miss some great moments. Also, where can you get an opportunity to walk through a crowd of thousands unobstructed?
Believe it or not, as I walked through, I could even feel the heat emanating from the mass of humans. It's an extraordinary experience. So I continued to walk closely behind Dr Azman, acting like another important emissary, still with the umbrella overhead.
It was a sensational feeling. To walk through this human corridor, with every person looking at you and, perhaps wondering who the hell is this Chinaman walking behind a PAS leader?
Anwar Ibrahim and Hadi Awang were quickly spotted and next thing I knew, I suddenly heard huge roars of "Allahu Akbar" and "Rerformasi!" I think Dr Azman managed to pass on the petition to the two leaders. And suddenly the crowds began to surge forward to follow their leaders.
With the police just about 10 metres away to the left, it was pretty amazing to see groups of volunteers in maroon uniforms, all thoroughly drenched, linking their hands to form a human chain around their leaders, to protect them just in case anything untoward were to happen. It was then I realised I could not go any further except to go back and be a part of the crowd which I was happy to do, after the satisfying feeling that, just like the many thousands of petitioners congregating there, I, too, did my bit. And what a big bit, too!
Soon after, Anwar Ibrahim and Hadi Awang were brought forward on the shoulders of their supporters to the middle of the road for both to make their speeches to the massive crowd.
But it was well nigh impossible to hear them speak as hovering closely overhead, maybe about 100 feet up were two helicopters circling the Istana and the crowds, making one helluva of a din. Obviously, the aerial mission was to deliberately fly low and to drown out the sound of the two speakers from two feeble megaphones. Despite the loud droning sound of the two choppers, it did not dampen the enthusiasm of the massive crowd.
After a few minutes, a dolphin-like warning sound started to come out from one of the police trucks, followed by a public announcement from one of the police officers who issued a warning to the crowd to disperse. Huge sighs and groans arose from the crowd but even before the crescendo could get louder, the leaders of the gathering urged the crowd to disperse.
It was amazing to see the excellent coordination of the crowds that discipline was not an issue at all. They responded to the call of the leaders, ably marshaled by a disciplined bunch of volunteer wardens in maroon uniforms who made sure no one stepped out of line.
I am not a politician but I was most impressed with the way the Bersih movement conducted themselves.