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Reflections on Bersih 2.0

Meld Magazine

Wed Jul 13 2011

Bersih 2.0 logo

BACK home in Malaysia, Meld Magazine reporter Jowee Tee reflects on how Bersih 2.0 has renewed hope, not least among the Facebook generation, that change is possible in Malaysia.

We’re  living in perhaps one of the most important times of our country’s history.

Our generation stands accused of many sins – we are too apathetic, too indifferent, too shallow to care, but this weekend, I think we all witnessed something that gives us the unquenchable hope that we’re better than we give ourselves credit for.

A large number of participants at the Bersih 2.0 Rally in Malaysia were first-time demonstrators in their 20s, and in the words of Ibrahim Suffian, director of independent research house Merdeka Centre, they were the “Facebook generation”.

What happened at Bersih is a firm indication that this generation is pressing for democracy and change.

Realistically we know, change doesn’t come by one act of civil disobedience. Achieving these goals require an ongoing process of trial and trial, and trying again. What is important is that we continue pursuing it, no matter how many rallies or organisations it takes. ‎Like what Martin Luther King Jr. said, “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope”.

The pictures that have emerged from Saturday’s demonstration were pretty breathtaking.

There was an Indian man in crutches making his way in steady strides towards the city centre. The 72-year-old Chinese uncle that came all the way from Sarawak just for the rallies, waving the Malaysian flag strong and proud, eyes set in an unwavering resolve. The Malay aunty who had the same flag wrapped around her, forcefully whisked away by policemen.

And then the stories and reports from mainstream and social media.

Our very own Malaysian Lady of Liberty, the genteel elderly aunty named Anne, who took the bus from Setapak alone to the city in support of the demonstration. She wore her yellow t-shirt, held her flower, and waved it at her fellow Malaysians, encouraging them, walking with them, and getting them to stay low when the tear gas struck.

The wheelchair bound woman who took her stand for democracy while the crowd roared, “Hidup Rakyat!” The elderly couple who responded when asked why they were there that day, “I walked for my children…”

On Twitter, a Malaysian who tweeted about “The real 1Malaysia (that) was down in the streets today. I joined hands with Christians, bowed my head with Muslims praying for Msia”. Another who told of how a “Chinese chap handed us salt &water. Wife gave choc to a stranger. Sang Negaraku together. I perhaps almost all felt the tear gas”. And another who wanted to say “TQ to two Chinese guys who pulled me away frm teargas canister&rub a pinch of salt into my mouth as I was completely stunned”.

I am encouraged by the words of Wong Chin-Huat, Monash lecturer and political activist to heart:

“I am a proud citizen of Malaysia. I believe in the promise of freedom and fraternity in the birth of Malaysia 48 years ago… I am fearful but I am more fearful of letting this country and the future generations continue to be colonised by fear. I am fearful  but I am going to overcome my fear because I want to be free. There is no peace in fear,” he said.

Bersih is about paving the way for a better life for our generation and the generation to come, where they can be free to live without fear and discrimination. We want a country that is free, a land that is truly ours, where our taxpayer’s money goes where it should. We want a place where we are given the freedom of education, and a good one at that.

Despite a failed economic policy, corrupt electoral practices, and many, many shortcomings, I believe and will continue to believe that change will come to Malaysia. Some may call it misplaced faith, but if we learned anything from the countless unsung heroes and brave countrymen who stepped out in faith on Saturday, it wasn’t blind faith, but a vision for a free Malaysia.

Find out how Malaysians in Melbourne took their stand at the Bersih 2.0 Rally on Saturday in the face of government threats. See also our photo gallery of the Melbourne rally.