A lot of accusations are being levelled against those being outspoken about not attending the upcoming 34-hour rally organised by the Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih 2.0). And quite frankly, it is quickly beginning to border insanity.
Accusations of cowardice, traitor, unpatriotic are commonplace. Honestly, had this been the Victorian era you would probably be handed three yellow feathers for not attending by some die-hard supporter clad in a yellow T-shirt.
So I will say this; enough sniping. We have obviously achieved the ability to agree to disagree, have we not?
As such, below are some of the most important things I can tell those of you protesting in KL this time around.
Save the number of the Bar Council hotline in case you get in trouble with the police. Have whatever supplies recommended at the ready. If your entire family or a large group is going, have one person sit it out and become the communication hub.
Be sure to give them the relevant information necessary, including your full name and IC number in case they have to call up the lawyers for you.
There are a few reasons for this. Firstly, telco coverage will get spotty due to the high concentration of people online and updating simultaneously. Secondly, the area surrounding Dataran Merdeka is a telco coverage black hole. It is not a government conspiracy, it just is.
And thirdly, the last thing you need while outrunning tear gas and water cannons is to wait and browse Facebook looking for a Bar Council post on who to call.
More importantly, keep your kids safe.
We have seen this time and time again where parents insist on bringing down their young children. Do not do this. There is already an announcement on social media regarding a childcare centre based in Sogo who will look after the next generation you are trying to save.
If there is political hijacking or a message you do not support being yelled out, walk away.
There will be nutcases suddenly calling the police “Yahudi” for no reason whatsoever, there will be idiots taunting the media, there will even be people looking to rile up anyone in a yellow T-shirt.
If you spot some of these agents provocateurs, take a photo or video for reference, pass it to a journalist and walk away.
If things go awry and police act up, disperse. Don’t listen or join groups taunting the police to shoot at them.
If you are with a group of friends and some of them begin to want to join in, cool them down and walk away.
Head to the nearest open LRT or KTM station and head out of the city. If the police do take crowd dispersal techniques properly, all these stations will remain open this time around. If not head to the nearest KTM station just to get out to KL Sentral and take whichever mode of transport from there.
Now, on to some new scenarios.
Should a crackdown occur at late night after public transport is offline, be sure to have cash handy and even an ATM card. Each bank has a different hour in which their services will be offline, so take note of this.
Be sure to have both MyTeksi and Uber applications on your phones if you did not drive into the city. Take note of the main roads with the easiest access which is not blocked nearest to you. Or, once again, head to KL Sentral and take a cab or Uber it from there.
For first time users of Uber, please be reminded that you will need to register your credit or debit card with the application, and not all debit cards can be used. For example through my personal experience, you can’t use your CIMB Debit card, but you can use one from Public Bank.
Now for some optionals.
Keep whichever area you are staying, standing or sitting at tidy, bring a trash bag. If not, look for the people in green T-shirts from the pro-environment factions and ask for one.
Secondly, support the local businesses. Some will remain open and still serving food and beverage even with teargas canisters flying about, as I experienced in Bersih 3.
Avoid heading into temples, mosques and even churches, and even hospitals unless you really, really have no choice. As per Bersih 2, there is no guarantee that the police will be smart enough (or bothered enough) to differentiate these locations on the fly.
Now for some reminders.
The police are merely doing their jobs. Keep that at the forefront of your minds if trouble ensues. Be as polite as possible. If accosted on your way out of KL, tell them you wish to head back home and ask them which public transport station is open.
Not everyone will be as well-equipped as you are, and some will be more susceptible to tear gas. If you see those in need of help, assist.
And finally, once the order to disperse is given by whoever, the police or the organizers, disperse. Do not wantonly wait to confirm it right on the spot through social media while people are running helter skelter.
As for journalists, you are all veterans in this after three such protests, and many others. I do believe you know to have your vests on (hopefully the companies have given one), supplies, media tags and gas masks on hand and such.
To the organisers, hopefully this time you will have a proper briefing on which roads will be better suited for people to disperse through. Also, hopefully this time there won’t be the excuse of asking everyone to disperse but it got lost in the chaos.
To the police, be gentle and professional, if you please.
To the government, stop with the scare tactics. Stop with the censorship, and quite frankly, stop making matters worse. Ministers, you have more important work. Propagandists, nothing good will come out of being stupid.
This is happening, let it happen.
God be with you all, as we all pray for the best but be ready for the worst.
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