An observation of the Hindraf rally

Posted on November 25, 2007

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Malaysiakini has it that I led the 10-man Bar monitoring team.

Not true.

Bar Councillor Edmund Bon led the team.

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The plan was for the team to meet at the KLCC LRT station.

7.28am – got an sms that ’10s of thousands r already at klcc. Tear gas n water cannon shot at them.

7.39am – got an sms that ‘klcc n ampang park lrt r closed. Meet at d wangi at 8.30am’.

As I headed to Dang Wangi LRT, encountered a steady stream of people making their way along Jalan Ampang headed for the British Embassy.

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Whilst waiting for the team got the following smses from team members who had already made their way to KLCC.

8.31am – Massive crowds are gathering at klcc from different places. Cheers going up everywhere every few seconds as new groups arrive. crowd easily at 10k. Fired tear gas earlier at abt 0700. SB watching us. Tension mounts.

8.47am – FRU form up, ready to move in. 0845hrs crowds still streaming into klcc. More than 10k unsure how much more. Water cannons being readied. Warning issued to disperse otherwise poilce say ‘kami akan gunakan kekerasan’. Water cannons moves in violently water sprayed. Crowds defiant.

8.49am – Water sprayed. Cry of defiance goes up. Fru form up. Crowds throw canisters back at police. Canisters fired from 2 directions. People take assault & stand firm.

By now, the team is assembled and a decision is taken to head in the direction of KLCC to assess the situation before any decision can be taken about deployment. Zorro and e.woon are with us.

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As we walked, more smses come in from the team at KLCC.

8.56am – Fru fire tear gas. again and again..in different directions. Crowd of 15k watches from across angkasa raya.

The team reached the first crowd somewhere near Saloma’s restaurant.

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There is a roar and applause all-round when they realise that the Bar team had arrived.

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These people complained about the gas.

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Saw a photographer standing high on a wall and got him to take the next picture. Its in the direction of KLCC.

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More smses from the team members at KLCC.

9.03am – Crowds defiant. Winds shifts. Gas drifts towards police. Crowds disperse & reform. Again and again. Helicopter flies low. We are troubled by teargas. Crowds move away from police but wait at edges 

9.12am – Pictures of Gandhi displayed by crowds. Chants of ‘long live hindraf”. Crowds just swirls around police. Standoff. Banners say ‘we are malaysians, we want our rights’. People are chanting and clapping, but otherwise fru & crowds are so far, non-violent.

9.16am – Banners read : queen of england, symbol of justice, we still have hope on u. Water cannon fired again. Crowds standing, not retreating. People are actually walking into the water cannon. Amazing.

We decided to move forward, but encountered a problem, which, it would turn out, would recur right through and proved to be an obstacle to our work.

Everytime we moved forward to head towards KLCC, the crowd would move along with us. Thank God Ashok was with us. Explained to them that they could not follow us, or it would appear as if we were leading them. Explained that we were there to monitor and observe and were not part of the rally.

The crowd appeared to be in disarray. They seemed to be at a loss as to how to move forward. The team members felt that there appeared to be a lack of leadership within the ranks.

Another sms.

9.24am – Crowd with hailers request police not to shoot them. That they are hear to ask for their rights only. Police continue to  rain down teargas. People are trying to show to police, by their body language that they mean no harm. Standoff again.

Finally, someone managed to explain to the crowd and we were able to make our way and reach the junction leading into Jalan Yap Kwan Seng.

Now we saw for ourselves the water cannons being fired.

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Another sms.

9.33am – Crowds move in towards police, chanting ‘hindraf aman’. Fru and police watch impassively. Siren sounds. Water cannons and tear gas fired again. Crowds plead thru hailer ‘kita damai. Don’t hit us. After we will disperse’.

A canister misses Ashok and another misses me.

Damn, they are firing laterally.

The smoke is overwhelming.

3 young men help me over a railing to try and get behind the police line.

Another round of canisters fired.

The smoke is simply unbearable.

Retreat back toward the traffic lights at the junction with Jalan Yap Kwan Seng.

Another sms.

9.38am – Helicopter continues to hover. Water cannons fired again. Crowds have not dispersed

Eyes smarting, throat burning, we regroup and decide to try to get to Jalan Tun Razak through Jalan Yap Kwan Seng.

Same problem again. The crowd are following us.

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Another sms.

Explain to the crowd again that they cannot follow us. Decide to let them go ahead. notice that there seems to be a lull back at KLCC. Decide to backtrack, get back on to Jalan Ampang behind the police line and try to walk from there to the embassy.

Another sms.

10.10am – A man holding a white flag wearing a Gandhi photo,waves at the police. Has been there for an hour. There’s a large banner being held up ‘kami aman’. Fru moves against crowd. Throw canisters at crowd, crowd throw it back.

We back on Jalan Ampang behind the police line.

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Water cannon fired again.

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More smses.

10.24am – Water cannon fired. Fru issues order to ‘standby’. Tear gas canisters are thrown back at police.

10.25am – Actually saw police firing gas canisters directly into the crowd. that was unnecessary and dangerous. fru men physically threaten some peaceful onlookers.

We start to walk in the direction of the embassy. People on the other side of the road are getting into a bit of a frenzy and making their way to join us. FRU getting agitated with us.

Water cannon truck comes in and fires.

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It turns out that some of the people thought we were part of the ‘rombongan’ to hand the petition to the emabssy.

We decide that to attempt to move further would risk another confrontation between the FRU and the crowd. We decide to stay put where we were, which was across from Wisma Central.

Between us and Ampang Park, you could still see a large crowd.

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From hereon its a lot of waiting and waiting.

Edmund gets a call to say head back to the Pakistani embassy. Word is that the petition is to be handed over there now.

The picture below is the view of the crowd in Jalan Yap Kwan Seng on the way back to the Pakistani embassy.

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Just before reaching the Pakistani embassy, which is slightly opposite the Saloma restaurant, stood on a railing to take the picture below. This is in the direction of Jalan Sultan Ismail.

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At about 11.40am, someone gave the announcement to disperse.

They did, and peacefully.

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Just had confirmation from Amer Hamzah that at Pulapol, there were more than 400 arrestees. of which 67 have been remanded.

At IPK, remand proceedings of another 60 or so are still ongoing.

No confirmation as yet on casualties. 

So, was the rally a success?

That’s Hindraf’s call.

My take.

I saw some very determined Malaysians out there this morning.

Translate them into votes and we might just see the last of Samy.

Was the use of water cannons and tear gas warranted?

It was unnecessary and most excessive, in my view.

Looking forward to saying ‘Sorry, I was wrong’ tomorrow.

Posted in: People Power