I can only remember that it was near Syawal on that morning in 2007 when my wife brought our then 1-year-old boy, to attend an open house held by her colleague in Bukit Jelutong, Shah Alam.
I am not a sociable type, but the party went well, and my boy enjoyed the Disney TV3 classic cartoon show where the 3 little piglets song was played, and there was plenty of halal food for all the guests.
My wife knew that I would join the frenzy that afternoon, so we departed from Bukit Jelutong around noon.
We had a smooth drive on the NKVE until about halfway along, when the jam started to build up. Sure enough, police narrowed the 3-lane highway to a single lane to make their police check easier.
The five signboards displaying the big-headed photos of the then Umno president and vice president, and the presidents of MCA, MIC and Gerakan stood in front of the toll.
I smiled at the police, and went through, on my way to send my wife and son to home. It rained, and the underpass of the Jalan Duta, not too far from the new Palace entrance, became flooded.
The time grew near to 1pm, so I decided to leave at Segambut KTM station and let my wife take our son home.
The train ride was not very smooth given the rainy weather, but I reached KL Sentral before 2pm. The covered walkway to Dayabumi was closed, with police guarding it.
I took another route, the Jalan Tun Sambanthan exit. A few youngsters wearing yellow T-shirts were advised by a elderly person to take them off to avoid trouble. By then, I was carrying a yellow raincoat in a plastic bag.
I was uncertain if there were any instructions from the rally organisers regarding a change in venue, since there was no way to
access the venue initially planned at Merdeka Square.
But there were three eagerly anticipated meeting points at 2pm. The other two were Masjid Jamek and Sogo.
I followed the road to Jalan Istana instead, climbing a wet grass slope and there, I came across the crowd. I put on my raincoat when I
Soon after, Mat Sabu was welcomed by his supporters in front of the Palace gates, the Lims marched in with their white suits, and Anwar was brought in by a motorcycle through the crowded scene. Good God! I nearly broke my elegant silence.
But I took no issue at all when the crowd began chanting “Allahu akbar!” I too echoed the praise to the al-mighty.
Soon, the rally was over, and the crowd dispersed in an orderly fashion. No tear gas nor water cannon was fired there, safeguarding
the dignity of the Istana.
But I found out later from my friends that there were clouds of tear gas in the Masjid Jamek area, when we had the chance to sit down and chat.
There, I rang another friend, and we had tea with someone who had flown in from Kuching to join the march.
The coffee shop was full: not a bad business day for the taukeh. Our journey back home was smooth. I took a bus instead of a train, heading towards Kepong.
FOUR YEARS LATER
Four years later, the movement, now renamed Bersih 2.0, doubled the number of electoral reform demands.
From the time the march was announced, I knew I would join the call to voice our concerns.
This time, lots more Sarawakians flew to KL. We participated in a forum the night before, July 8, to share our views on the possibility
of postal voting by Malaysians abroad. Since I anticipated traffic next day would be blocked, I spent a night at a friend’s house near Sungai Besi.
Early in the morning, my kind friend ferried a few Sarawakians from KL Sentral to Petaling Street. He told me he was forced to make several detours.
Six of us, four men and two women, headed to Plaza Rakyat in a Toyota Avanza at 11.45am. We arrived just before noon.
There were no police roadblocks along the route, since my friend knows the area well, and had surveyed the route beforehand.
He parked his car opposite the Tung Shin hospital, near St. Anthony’s church. We went from there to Petaling Street on foot.
The police were omnipresent. We crossed Jalan Sultan and met some friends, ready for the assembly. It was 12.30pm, and a friend there invited me for lunch.
I looked in the Lee Lim Thye Market area. Alas, the market was closed! Along Jalan Sultan, only one chicken rice shop was open for business as usual, and was nearly full.
We recognised faces from the forum fortnight. At 12.50pm, before we managed to finish our lunch, we heard chanting outside of the shop.
Cursing a little, I asked the shopkeeper to pack the leftovers and I shoved the bag into my backpack.
From there, we strolled with the crowd along Jalan Kinabalu, Jalan Pudu, Jalan Petaling back and forth, around the Maybank Tower area.
We noticed two newly elected state representatives from Sarawak, Baru Bian and See Chee How.
Soon afterwards, we were strolling along Jalan Pudu when the water cannon from Jalan Hang Jebat area started to inch in, followed by a few rounds of chemical-laced water and tear gas.
I was forced to ascend the narrow stair to Changkat Tung Shin, and the crowd dispersed amidst the thick smoke.
Resting there, we watched a heavy downpour. I met a family who had helped to monitor the Hulu Selangor by-election.
From there, I could see the Tung Shin hospital with the FRU presence. I checked my mobile for tweets. After a while, we decided to head for Merdeka Stadium.
I met a Lun Bawang man, and I decided to accompany him to look for his friends. By about 3pm at the Chan Clan library, resembling a Chinese temple opposite KL and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall, we met a middle-aged cyclist from PJ, and we exchanged words.
The howling of a police helicopter overhead did not stop, but we could still hear and communicate. Again, I saw Sarawakians there.
By 4pm, my friend with the Toyota called me, and we were ready to go home.
I walked to the KTM station in KL where I had boarded a train four years earlier for the first Bersih rally.The carriage was packed with
Bersih participants, and I couldn’t help but share their sentiments, their chants and their jubilation.
Those were the two cleanest events I attended in those four years. Now I look forward to the general election.