Friday, December 14, 2007

Don't ruin it, AAB: candle light vigil in Penang by the next generation of Malaysia

Candle Light Vigil in Penang and the Teh Tarik Revolution
by Jack on Sat 15 Dec 2007 01:06 AM MYT | Permanent Link | Cosmos
I am no saint, only inspired and probably angered.

When we, JR, E and I arrived at the entrance arch of Campbell Street yesterday for the candlelight vigil, the police - who seemed to outnumber the participants of the vigil - had requested that we disperse. They were polite and cooperative and I was glad for the understanding.

Shushi, the SUARAM Penang coordinator was giving an interview to the press, while I took the opportunity to snap some photos. The police allowed us the linger around a bit until a burly fellow in dark jacket, began to shout rudely at us to "bersurai" (disperse). He claimed to be the OCPD and said that if we do not go in 5 minutes, he will arrest all that were still lingering there.

Shushi had already insisted that the vigil crowd was dispersed by her minutes ago and it was the press that was still there to conduct interviews. She boldly asked the OCPD why we must move, and in his rude bullying voice, he shouted that we are obstructing the traffic.

The truth is we were standing at the walking corridor (kaki lima).

Campbell Street or the Pedestrian Mall was closed to the last shop at night and few if any vehicles would pass the street. I remember when the project was first initiated years ago, Kee Phaik Cheen, state exco for tourism hyped up the whole venue as the next jonker street or orchard road or something like that. There will be unending festivities, along the expensively tiled mile-long road. There was the odd looking and impractical metal benches - hot in daytime, cold at night, the supposedly old and colonial looking lamp-post (half functioning), the old style shoplots selling trinkets of Penang's bits of fame. But that night, as of almost every night since the few years ago, Campbell Street was silent.

What traffic? The main street - Penang Road - was a bit congested, I was stucked in the traffic for a while and Sushi told me on the phone to come quickly. But the real reason was obvious to everyone, that road is ALWAYS jammed. Half of the road directly opposite of the vigil venue was blocked by road constructions leaving only the half accessible to traffic.

Of course, the passing cars would slow down to look at the commotions and the crowd but I really think the police traffic should do a better job to direct these vehicles to move on rather than slow down. One traffic police was seen doing the job though I do not see with much effectiveness.

So what or who are we obstructing?

Shushi made a clear statement to the press, our rights were violated.

We were there to show solidarity to those who were arrested for being peaceful conscientious dissenters - BERSIH, HINDRAF, the lawyers, NGO leaders etc. In fact yesterday, news came out that the HINDRAF 5 was arrested under ISA.

Why are good citizens of Malaysia arrested because they desired the Country to be better managed? We are not thieves, robbers, kidnappers, drug lords, corrupted officials, murderers or mat rempits. Why are we arrested?

Why is Pak Lah talking about peace over rights and freedom?

We are losing both Mr. Prime Minister. There will be no peace without the space to disagree with one another, even with the government.

Maybe you can learn from us, if you are really the humble people's leader you made yourself to be; after the one who claimed to be OCPD rudely shouted us away from the venue, a group of us gathered at a local Mamak (you may call it the Teh Tarik Revolution in good Penang-Malaysia spirit). There were people of all races, young and old. I made friends with and spoke to a Malay Muslim and a Hindu. We talked openly about our political aspiration for the Country. There may be points which we disagree with one another, but there was space to do that. We do not need to shut each other up just because there were different opinions. Peace, Pak Lah, does not come from mindless accusations on folks that disagree with you or from locking up your opponents. Peace may better come, you were a penangite you should understand, in form of solid friendship - yeap even with those who are fundamentally different from you - over a cup of teh tarik at the mamak stall.

Oh, just to let you know, we are all the next generation of this country. You know when you are retired, and probably migrated to sunny Australia (just rumours I heard, pls don't take it seriously if it's not true), it is us, my Muslim friend, my Hindu friend and me and many others on the table that night and many many more elsewhere - Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Muslims, Atheists, good and conscientious Malaysians, that is - who will take over the running of the Country, in its socio-economics institutions, religious institutions, schools, universities, and yes, politics.

Why not listen to us for a change? The Country and her future belonged to us anyway. Don't ruin it, AAB.

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