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Thursday at Ambiga's
By Zaharom Nain
this seems to me, forgive me, to fall into a very simple trap. Illegal
assembly, violence provoked, more anti-Bersih fuel and headlines.
Ignoring idiots is much better, they look foolish. It is foolish to
fight with s**t .
Sean, my expatriate English friend
that lot are bloody losers. And a crowd of men menacing a woman in her
position is tiringly predictable, but still horribly depressing and
threatening behaviour. Not sure what they were selling but every trader I
saw was having trouble keeping up with demand, at least until their
customers were tear-gassed.
Tessa, my friend and colleague from New Zealand
The text message that I received from my old friend, author Kee Thuan
Chye, last Wednesday read, ‘Wanna join me for the pooja at Ambiga's home
Indeed, Thursday was going to be the first of the
two days that the anti-Bersih petty traders, led by the slimy Jamal Mohd
Yunus, planned to set up stalls in the enclave where Bersih co-chair
Ambiga Sreenevasan lives.
never really met Ambiga before, save for two fleeting moments - the
first at the lawyers' march against the (then) Peaceful Assembly Bill
and, the second, on that fateful Saturday afternoon of April 28.
So when Thuan Chye's text message came through, my almost instant response was, ‘Sure, what time do we go?'
The reason I wanted to go wasn't so much because I was looking forward
to a confrontation with, not one, but two groups of what I believed (and
still do believe) were moronic thugs.
Indeed, imbeciles who
didn't know what the issues were all about but, given the lowest
monetary incentive possible, would nonetheless go out to pick a fight
against a defenceless woman.
Like those butt-exposing ex-soldiers who would have probably lost us any battle with the Girl Guides of America, let alone a konfrontasi with any of Malaysia's enemies.
No, confrontations with such butt-heads, I felt, would be an utter
waste of time and effort and, as my concerned English friend, Sean,
reminded me in his e-mail to me, would make me stoop down to their
Indeed, the reason I said ‘yes' to the
invitation was to give me the opportunity to, hopefully, meet up with
this remarkable, decent woman whose only ‘crime', I felt, was to have
alerted all of us Malaysians to our right to free and fair elections.
And to ask that we be given nothing less, as befitting a ‘democratic'
Ambiga the consummate hostess
When we finally arrived in her neighbourhood that Thursday afternoon,
the place looked like a crime scene, with almost a hundred police
officers and DBKL (Kuala Lumpur City Hall) enforcement officers having
set up a roadblock at the top of her street.
we had walked through the army of newsmen and women, we were warmly
greeted at Ambiga's gate by the always smiling social activist
Hishamuddin Rais (centre in photo) and ushered into her home.
and friends apparently had been in and out of the house since morning.
One could sense the family's bewilderment and perhaps annoyance at this
ongoing disruption to their daily lives, the feeling of having their
personal space and privacy violated by people who, frankly, couldn't see
any picture, let alone the bigger picture.
In a corner sat the
serene, the almost regal Pak Samad, calmly waiting for the traders and
other assorted yobs to come a-calling. Ambiga was the consummate
hostess, offering us drinks, curry puffs, and even what seemed to be a
freshly-baked ‘Viva Bersih' cake.
This despite the fact that many
of us were perfect strangers to her and her family, despite the fact
that all this was clearly testing her, her family and her neighbours.
But as she rightly put it, all this is also education for the people. It
will make us see the true nature of those supposedly leading us.
4pm, an hour later than expected, as we Malaysians tend to be, the
police let through the leaders of a bunch of youngsters - a group whose
totally forgettable name now escapes me - to send their ‘memorandum'.
I remember is that they had white T-shirts on that said ‘Halau '.
Evidently these dropouts don't know the difference between a memorandum
and a mimeograph. Indeed, it was nothing more than a sick, vicious,
racist attack on Ambiga.
I felt then that if, God forbid, I had been their parent, I would have disowned them a long time ago.
came the ‘main act', the petty traders. Surprisingly, they'd changed
their tune somewhat, assuring us all that they would not now hold a
two-day pasar malam on the road outside the house.
the change of mind, I wouldn't like to hazard a guess, save for the
possibility that they finally realised that they were making total
mockeries and utter ninnies not only of themselves but also of their
Apology for not fighting hard enough
since the deputy police chief made that unfortunate - and, let's face
it, quite irresponsible and plain stupid - statement, virtually inviting
uncivilised acts of intimidation of this nature, Malaysians have been
extremely vocal condemning these acts that indicate a descent to
And condemning the people they perceive to be behind these acts - the very same people who profess to be leading us.
And as the dust settled in Damansara Heights that Thursday evening, as
we walked to our car parked beside two busloads of what looked like mak ciks, pak ciks, and their anak remaja,
I couldn't help wondering what the package deal had been for them - a
few ringgit each perhaps, plus a day trip to Putrajaya, with lunch
cheap, how unnecessary, I said to myself. And I remembered Ambiga's
apology at the ‘post-pasar malam (that never was)' press conference.
An apology for not having fought hard enough to prevent the situation in this country from descending to this pathetic level.
is an apology, I strongly believe, that this gentle, stoic woman need
not have to make. Instead, it is an apology that the leaders of this
country should make to us all.
NAIN is a media analyst who is concerned about the way decent
Malaysians are now being demonised by immoral leaders, their mindless
minions, and their lackeys in the media.