The local blogosphere is amassed with photos of the Bersih rally and I have contributed my share. But how was it like before the rally took place, before the tear gas, before the peaceful march to the Istana Negara?

I took the train to stop at Masjid Jamek as around 11:00. I came in early because I did not want to be in a train packed with people. Given massive road blocks set up by the police to discourage the rally (rumors have it that the road blocks were extend all the way down to Johor!), I had expected people to use the train and I definitely wanted to avoid a packed train. The decision was an excellent one as later, both stations at Masjid Jamek and Central Market — the two nearest stations to the Dataran Merdeka — were closed. Trains would scream pass the two stations for an hour or two.

Besides, early birds get the worms and this is proven by how I managed to get into Dataran Merdeka. I was prevented to do so earlier by the police but I will write about that later in this entry.

A stranger even asked where I was from. His tone was irritating and I asked him back the same question just to irritate him. I do not entertain rude people. Rudeness deserves rudeness in return; I am a firm believer of tit-for-tat for a one time encounter; economics teaches me that!

As I set out of the train, police presence could immediately be felt.

Some rights reserved. By Mohd Hafiz Noor Shams

There were police officers all around the area. I know that the government had deployed 4,000 personnel to suppress liberty but number does not quite translate well into reality until one actually sees it for oneself. Sure, the number of police officers from various department at Masjid Jamek did not reach 4,000 but it was enough to give a feeling that something is going to happen, even to those that are clueless, or the yuppies that are concerned with shopping and nothing else.

Some rights reserved. By Mohd Hafiz Noor Shams

I wanted to check out the situation at the other side of the Padang but I was denied entry into the Dataran Merdeka. So, I had to circumvent the whole area, theoretically. Why theorectically? Control of the area was lagged, just like that at our borders, and I managed to enter (maybe sneaked is a better adjective?) Dataran Merdeka with little effort. I was unsure of what would happen to me as there were police — riot police — all around me. I figured, they would have halted my advance even before I took the first step. Yet, I put a confident face and flash my DLSR and I found myself close to the Padang. I am unsure how the flashing helped but I am sure it contributed to my successful entry into the Square.

Some rights reserved. By Mohd Hafiz Noor Shams

Yup. Truckload of, er, trucks?

After witnessing all this, I had a feeling we were in some kind of emergency. The Prime Minister’s earlier “saya pantang dicabar” threat further strengthened a feeling of inevitable violent clash. I was so glad that was not the case for overwhelmingly majority of the rally participants.

The dark sky somehow tried to relay the message to the contrary.

Some rights reserved. By Mohd Hafiz Noor Shams

It was cloudy the whole morning and in fact, the whole day. As I have mentioned earlier, the rain might be a blessing; it made tear gas as well as heat stroke irrelevant.

Some rights reserved. By Mohd Hafiz Noor Shams

The copter was ever paranoid, circling Dataran Merdeka frequently.

While I was passing through Dataran Merdeka, rain started to pour in and I had to seek refuge at the Kuala Lumpur Library. Once the rain stopped for a moment, I continued toward Central Market, one of initial four rallying points.

Some rights reserved. By Mohd Hafiz Noor Shams

And guess what? More police. I think given Johor Bahru’s reputation, that city could use this treatment more than Kuala Lumpur.

Some rights reserved. By Mohd Hafiz Noor Shams

At the very end of Central Market, the one farthest away from Dataran Merdeka, a unit of riot police was being deployed. Many members of the public were amused, taking photos with their cute camera phones. It rained again and I was getting hungry.

Some rights reserved. By Mohd Hafiz Noor Shams

I thought of having my lunch at a socialist-friendly place, despite I myself sitting at the other end of the political spectrum, but Hishamuddin Rais was not there; the restaurant was closed.

That was not before I captured the shot above. They, the police, were everywhere! If the Malayan Emergency that ended in 1960 were still in place, Hishamuddin Rais would have no place to run!

Some rights reserved. By Mohd Hafiz Noor Shams

Disappointed and refusing to eat at anywhere else, I returned to Dataran Merdaka. The riot police, locally known as the Federal Reserve Unit (FRU) had set up a tiny base in front of the Sultan Abdul Samad Building. This unit would become irrelevant because the crowd would bypass the Square altogether. Oh, before I made anybody confused, I am using the terms Dataran Merdeka and Square to refer to the same place.

Some rights reserved. By Mohd Hafiz Noor Shams

MERDEKA! Ironic that while the government celebrates 50th year of Malaysia (despite the fact that Malaysia as a state is only 44 years old), its citizens, us, still struggle to assert our individual liberty. And observe how many police personnel could be seen here.

Some rights reserved. By Mohd Hafiz Noor Shams

Back to the other side… If you wonder why the police stood in line, they were taking shelter from the rain under a train viaduct that runs parallel to the road.

Some rights reserved. By Mohd Hafiz Noor Shams

Ambulances at ready! How thoughtful!

Some rights reserved. By Mohd Hafiz Noor Shams

And back to the other side of the Square. Quite quiet, until Tian Chua and gang emerged.

Some rights reserved. By Mohd Hafiz Noor Shams

Close to the barricade was where the fire brigade made their home.

Some rights reserved. By Mohd Hafiz Noor Shams

The FRU during lighter moment.

Some rights reserved. By Mohd Hafiz Noor Shams

And it poured just before the game began

5 Responses to “[1442] Of the atmosphere of the city hours prior to the Bersih rally”

  1. on 11 Nov 2007 at 16:17 zac

    to mr hafiz noor shams,

    i’m proud be a malaysian but when we talking about demacracy especially malaysia democracy…i think it is very stupid idea. nowadays, Malaysia do not practicing a true democracy. we as a orang bawah just see and agree with what government say like Hang Tuah.

    p/s: are u still a malaysian or american? to be a glokal malay tak sepatutnya lepaskan kewarganegaraan. i think u should mohon balik kerakyatan malaysia w/pun PM kata dah tak boleh mohon. itu hanyalah gertak PM sahaja…hahaha! balik-balik la ke malaysia. wassalam.

    regards,
    maritime student.

  2. […] Part II – Of the atmosphere of the city hours prior to the Bersih rally […]

  3. on 12 Nov 2007 at 12:40 anis

    Hey there,

    I was just wondering if it was you I saw at Masjid Jamek on 10th Nov. I did say hello to him (oh well, the guy in blue shirt) and asked if you’re one of the demonstrators. 🙂

  4. on 12 Nov 2007 at 21:59 Hafiz Noor Shams

    Hey!

    Blue shirt?

    No. I was in a black-gray long sleeve shirt. But it is still a pleasure to meet you online.

  5. […] took a lot of shots at the BERSIH rally (here and here as well) and Faisal for some reason like one of it. So, one of my photos is featured in the book […]

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