Activism Photography Politics & government

[2796] The balloons of Bersih

In solidarity with the balloon girl…

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 31 — Police have charged a woman who was detained earlier today for distributing Bersih 4 balloons at an upscale shopping mall here for allegedly attempting to stir some trouble, according to the suspect’s lawyer.

It is understood that Bilqis Hijjas, the daughter of prominent architect Hijjas Kasturi, has been charged under Section 504 of the Penal Code for ”provoking a breach of peace” by distributing the balloons at the Pavilion shopping mall in Bukit Bintang during the DiverseCity International Art Festival which Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak had attended. [Malay Mail”˜Balloon girl’ charged for handing out Bersih balloons. August 31 2015]

…here are the balloons of Bersih?

My favorite balloon is this big white fatso.

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I am sorry for the up close and personal shot violating the balloon, but I was on my zoom lens and I thought I did not have enough time to switch to a more appropriate one. But it turned out okay.

And Tweety!!!

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You see those normal yellow balloons? Yea, somebody got arrested for that.

And this one is a bit aggressive in a confusing way. A smiling bear with a potty mouth in need of a big soap.

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I could not make up what it said, but bodoh is stupid in Malay. And Jibby is, well, Najib, our affectionate nickname for the Prime Minister.

And as the balloon bear danced in the wind, it turned around and… haha

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Yea, angry bear. Too bad there were no angry birds.

Anyway, yea, you have to have these…

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I have no more balloon picture, but if you do read up on Malaysian social media, you will know how magical this moment was, just 10 minutes before midnight:

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Activism Photography Politics & government

[2795] The protest signs of Bersih 4

One of the things I like about protests are the signs.

This refers to the Home Ministry’s petty law gazetted on Friday to ban all yellow t-shirts with the word Bersih 4 on it. Walking around KL, or if you used the public transport over the weekends, you would see the level of civil disobedience. This also reminds of me V for Vendetta: “Beneath this mask there is more than flesh. Beneath this mask there is an idea, Mr. Creedy, and ideas are bulletproof.”

Remember, civil disobedience is a hallmark of democracy. “Donation,” probably less so.

And yes, protests require stamina, especially for Bersih-style protests. Mentally, we had to prepare for tear gas. A lot of running. And of course, strong arms to hold up the signs. See the sign next to the yellow one? Have some sympathy for him please!

Others are… well. Snarky.

Bersih is not about toppling the government, although no doubt many if not the majority wants the corrupt man to step down and face a proper court of justice. We ain’t seeking a revolution kid, but we want change nonetheless. So, the “Bye Najib” sign is a hilarious interpretation of that sentiment.

The tildes add to the effect. Hahaha.

Some are more direct in their anger.

For the man of doublespeak, this needs no description at all.

There were signs with coarse language. I could not point my camera fast enough to shoot it. The streets were packed with people, filled with vuvuzela noise courtesy of the South African World Cup and I had to watch where I was going.

Make no mistake, this was a peaceful protest (I hate the word rally. I am a purist and I will use the exact word to describe this: it was a protest). But, those here on the streets were angry.

The shimmering anger makes a hand-off police attitude a must. Any intervention will lead to chaos. This is true for all past Bersih protests. Hell came down only after the first tear gas was shot. I have been teared gas before. It hurts. It irritates the skin, it feels like chili in your eyes, you will have trouble breathing. It weakens you. If your mind loses control over your senses, panic will strike soon after. But, it also turns you into a hulk as soon as you recover. It is scary the first time but the next time, you are prepared for it.

Remember, this is a protest led by the middle class. The first time might be a nightmare for naive men and women on the streets. But the next time, the confrontation tactics will be more sophisticated. We are not sheep to the wolves.

But I am going off the rail.

Back to the signs!

For king of U-turns and for the king of changing stories.

I have to explain this a little bit. Gostan is a funny Malay word originating from English. Apparently, it is a corruption of “go astern” (who on earth would tell a driver to go astern I have no idea).

Here is for the I love PM crowd.

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While most signs are for the register of protest, others are more utilitarian.

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Bersih organizers were recruiting volunteers to pick up the trash left behind, and demanding participants to be responsible. Do not be a litterbug. We want a clean government and a clean street. You there! What are you doing? Pick up your trash!

Also, it will be very instructive to observe the level cleanliness during Bersih and that during the August 31 celebration. I write so because detractors say Bersih would leave behind trash, but the truth is, they do not really care and making issues out of nothing. They would not care about the trash left behind during other government-sanctioned major events.

Hell, do these people clean their treys and table when they eat at McDonald’s? They would leave their rubbish behind.

This one is for the police.

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It is an appeal for the police not to use force against the protesters, arguing that a clean government is for the family of these men and women in blues too.

And… do you hear the people sing?

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Well, not really, but you know.

This one asks, where is democracy?

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At least I think so. That is a non-standard Malay, likely more Iban or Sarawak-based. Actually, I am not sure whether my translation is correct.

There were multiple guerrilla-style notification posters. These two informed protesters where to gather and who to call in times of troubles.

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I need to go. So I will end this with a vandalism unlikely done by Bersih participants.

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Keep our city clean.


[2608] NGOs and foreign funding; a statement by IDEAS

Given the nonsense going on with respect to NGOs and foreign funding, I am glad IDEAS has come up with something:

Press Statement on foreign funding for Malaysian entities

Barisan Nasional MPs should not be so paranoid about the incoming of foreign funds to support NGOs in Malaysia. After all, Barisan Nasional parties also receive American support, with the latest one being just last weekend at a luxurious hotel in Kuala Lumpur. This is not new because, in fact, Barisan Nasional leaders have been receiving foreign support too for many years.

And many bodies close to the government have also received foreign funding. For example, I have in front of me evidence that a think tank close to the government receives support from a foundation linked to a Christian Democratic party from abroad.

Foreign funding is a norm for many NGOs. Just like the government is working hard to bring in foreign investment, we too work hard to attract foreign funds to help grow the country. Surely the foreign support received by Barisan Nasional parties last weekend is not meant to weaken but to strengthen the institutions of government. These support should be cherished, not condemned.

Note: For details of funding received by IDEAS, please see our Annual Report here: [Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs. Press Statement on foreign funding for Malaysian entities. October 5 2012]

Activism Photography Politics & government Society

[2538] Where were you today?

And so I went.

I went because I remembered a line from CNN long ago. The news network ran an advertisement showing videos of important development from around the world. It ended with a line, “where were you?”

I do not want to answer, in the future, “I was in my bed.

I will not need to. I went.

Activism Politics & government Society

[2537] Contemplating Bersih sit-in

I am currently at home, contemplating whether I should be going to the biggest event of the year so far or stay at home in my bed, reading books or simply enjoy the Saturday. The biggest event of the year yet is the Bersih’s sit-in in Kuala Lumpur.

I participated in both the previous incarnations of Bersih and I thoroughly enjoyed the atmosphere. In the 2011 protest, I learned how it felt to be exposed to tear gas and it was not an easy experience. I joked around immediately after I recovered from the tear gas exposure that, “I am now a protest veteran.”

I have been to multiple protests. Three of them involved loitering around the police stations in Brickfields, Dang Wangi and Bukit Aman. Despite that, I do not really enjoy protesting in such manner. It is almost always tiring and running around in the city being chased by the police is not really as fun as that “police and thieves” kid game. It is stressful. In a large protest like Bersih, there are just too many variables to think about: escape route, police location, road blocks, water source, faces of people. And I do not have the stamina to run around like dogs. I just do not.

I remember how painful it was to my lungs, how the muscles were crying stop please, how the heart begged a relief before it exploded. Only the selfish mind said, go on and don’t stop. That was in the heat of the moment.

But like any rational human being, I learn and I know the experience is not pleasant. I am just not an activist who is persistent in participating in very physical and demanding exercise. I really do not have the appetite for protests day in and day out. There is a cost to participation.

Even right now, if there was no protest, I would have gone to the office to analyze monetary data for publication on Monday. I will not do that today because I know if I do go to the office to work, I will not do anything because I will be checking my Twitter account and visiting various news portals constantly, curious about a party downtown. No work will be done, that too I know.

I am still contemplating my participation and it is still several more hours before the appointed time. But whatever the decision, you can bet that I support Bersih.