This was lifted from the soc.culture malaysia newsgroup. The writer identifies himself as Sabri Zain,
which may or may not be his true identity.
I went shopping today.
It was a hot, sunny late afternoon, and as my significant other and I
proceeded to Masjid India from Central Market, we could already see
pockets of four or five policemen, beating the sidewalks, waiting at
junctions ... but traffic seemed usual and people were going about their
own business, as if this was going to be just another ordinary Saturday
It was not to be an ordinary Saturday. This Saturday was to be one of
those special days that history claims for its own. Just like September
20th was.
As we winded our way along the Saturday market in the back alleys of
Jalan Masjid India, we couldn't help noticing a hum in the air. It could
have been the distant honking from Jalan TAR - I thought to myself
traffic must be really bad today. But it was more than a hum. By the
time we reached Semua House and decided to turn into jalan TAR, the hum
grew louder and louder until it became a roar.
And what a breathtaking sight we saw when me turned that junction!
Wire news reports I read later said it was at least three kilometres
long. But from where I was, it seemed all along Jalan TAR for as far as
the eye could see - thousands of people lining the pavements, chanting,
singing, laughing, cheering, clapping. Men. Women. Children. Students.
Couples. Middle-aged. Elderly. Yang bertudung. Yang rugged. Some were
waving posters of Anwar Ibrahim, others made do with magazine covers
with his photographs, there were brightly painted cloth banners, still
others just made do with home-made scrawled marker pen messages on manila
cardboard - but they all had the same messages - "REFORMASI" "KAMI
How many people were there? Estimates vary from 10,000 to 30,000. I
would think that there were certainly at least many tens of thousands
along Jalan TAR - maybe less after Maghrib prayers later that evening.
And I'm not even counting the cars. A pedestrian/demonstrator
remarked "Kalau kita semua pi Bukit Jalil pun, saya rasa satu stadium
Komanwel tu pun tak cukup!"
And I dare Datuk Dr Yusof Noor to say again that all these people were
And the persistant honking and honking. But the traffic was moving
smoothly. No, this wasn't your usual Malaysian motorist's love call to
the car in front of him. The vehicles were honking at us on the
pavement! After a while you could distinguish a certain ryhtmn as well -
four short honks, repeated at intervals. Honk-honk-honk-honk.
And the passengers in the cars had their own posters, pictures and
messages, stretching their bodies out of their windows and waving them
at pedestrians. Some shook hands with the pedestrians, but most
exchanged that gesture that the Reformists have made
their own - the thumbs up. And the crowds on the pavement clapped and
cheered as this happy convoy made its way up Jalan TAR.
One middle-aged lady in a burgundy Proton saw the white ribbon I was
wearing on my jacket and bellowed out "REFORMASI" as she smiled broadly.
I shot back a thumbs up and returned her smile - and for that instant we
knew that there was an instant bond. I got that feeling a lot today -
that instant bond, with total strangers, yet much stronger than anything
I've felt with some people I would call friends.
As we were moving along the road towards Dataran Merdeka, I could see
that the organisers were taking great pains to make sure that traffic
flowed smoothly and people were safe. I could see individuals along the
road diligently directing traffic, persuading crowds back when they
spilled too much onto the road, getting cars to move along when the
drivers were too engrossed shaking hands with pedestrians.
And the uniformed police were far from the grim, stern-faced guardians
of the law last week. There were groups of two or three of them along
the road, leaning against pillars, arms folded, smiling at the crowds -
yes, smiling! In fact, I can't say that I've ever seen so many smiling
policemen. One sixty-year old man I met said one of the policemen even
struck up a conversation with him. "Apa nak buat sekarang? Dah ramai
sangat orang dah ni. Asalkan dia orang tak buat kacau, rosakkan benda,
kita biarlah."
The old man remarked "Polis ini orang biasa macam kita jugak. Orang
biasa. Mungkin yang jahat cuma yang dah pangkat besak sangat." And he
let out a revelation. "Dan bukan polis saja macam tu. Kita orang UMNO
pun sama."
I met a journalist friend of mine along the way, and a female
acquaintance. "This is wonderful," I said. "I couldn't believe
Malaysians could do this. But we have. And perhaps there hope."
I subsequently heard that he had been assaulted by two men later that
The crowd proceeded towards the direction of Mesjid Negara as the
evening wore on - a mass of many thousands of people converging upon a
mosque to perform their Maghrib prayers. The cheers of "REFORMASI" and
takbirs ringed the the Dataran Merdeka again, like it did last September
20th. We saw three or four FRU trucks waiting in front of the Sultan
Abdul Samad building - but this time, no long columns of red helemts,
shields and batons barring the way. And where were the FRU? Safely
huddled inside their caged trucks!
At the junction near Dayabumi, police crowd control consisted of two
petite, young and rather pretty female officers - surrounded by this sea
of big, perhaps angry young men. The officers of course tried to play
their part
to the hilt, looking seriously and sternly at the crowd - but one of
them couldn't stop herself from letting out a giggle when one of
demonstrators remarked "Jaga keselamatan kita ya dik - jangan lah pukul
- sakit!"
The fountain located at the entrance of the tunnel below the British
Council was awash with people - literally. From being a rather ugly and
perhaps over-expensive ornament, that fountain was transformed into a
refuge where the faithful could cleanse themselves for prayer - dozens
of people were performing their wudu' there, expecting the washing area
in the National Mosque to be already congested with bodies.
But perhaps the most stirring moment for me that day was when we entered
the tunnel. Roars of "REFORMASI" reverberated as the crowd entered the
tunnel, the acoustics amplifying the sound until it hit you like a wall,
like the blast from an explosion. I spent a few minutes just standing
still in that tunnel - "REFORMASI!" "REFORMASI!" "REFORMASI!" - echoing
in my ears for many minutes after I left.
And the crowd came back along that same tunnel - echoing the same call -
after Maghrib prayers had been performed, and they filled with renewed
And marching to that square that was the secene of so much history in
just these past weeks and so aptly named - Dataran Merdeka.
The crowd reached the Sultan Abdul Samad building a few minutes before
8.00 - and there were already FRU trucks and the infamous water cannon
barring the way to Jalan TAR. So people just did the most logical thing
- they just sat down on the road! A sit-in protest - no one can accuse
you of starting violence when you're sitting cross-legged on the road! A
small group of crew-cut young men in jackets - I don't know who they
were - tried to pull down the barricades along the padang and urged the
crowd to follow them. But it was obvious that the organisers were
well-prepared for any trouble-makers - the men were immediately
surrounded by men and women and ordered to get back on the road, sit
down and join
the rest. They even put the barricades up again.
The crowd continued chanting and singing what has become the anthem of
the Reformists, albeit with the lyrics slightly modified: "... semboyan
telah berbunyi, menuju reformasi!!!"
When the clock tower struck 8.00, the whole crowd let out a roar of
"Allahuakbar!". They were not budging and the situation was tense - the
police certainly seemed no longer in the smiling mood they were in the
afternoon. There were some heated negotiations going on immediately
under the clock tower with some senior police officers, while the crowd
continued chanting and singing. There was a momentary round of applause
when a line of young women in tudungs moved through the crowd, in
single-file, bearing a poster of Anwar.
And as I sat there, I couldn't help but notice Bukit Aman towering above
us behind the crowd. One or two of the floors were still lit up on the
monolith, and you could even just about see individuals peering from the
lit windows. I wondered if Anwar was seeing this - and what thoughts
would be running through my head if I were him.
At about 8:10 pm the headlights of the water-cannon were ominously
switched on. The police made an announcement. "Wanita dan kanak-kanak
diminta beredar daripada kawasan ini. Kami memberi dua minit untuk
Almost at the very second the announcement was over, the call to the
Isha' prayers began from the nearby Jamek Mosque.  As the music of the
Azan echoed in the stillness of the night, an eery quiet hung over the
whole of Dataran Merdeka. Almost everyone was still.
As the Azan disappeared into silence, the crowd still did not move. I
could hear a young Indian man talking behind one of the pillars of the
building, either to a handphone or perhaps a walky talkie " It's still
stand-off. OCPD wants to give them another 15 minutes. Stand by."
But at 8:30 sharp, the organisers told the crowd to go home - their
point had been made. And as the mass of people turned away towards
Central Market, the clock tower struck 8:30.
Despite the attacks on demonstrators in the weeks before, despite the
warnings almost every day this whole week that the authorities would
crack down on any form of demonstration, despite the fear, despite the
threats, despite the solemn
pronouncements by the powers that be that the Reformasi movement is dead
- tens of thousands of Malaysians came out today - defiant and free.
I have never in my life been more proud to be Malaysian than I am at
this moment in history.

 @  @  
Sabri Zain
"For God knows the Truth and to Him do we return." 
- 'Sejarah Melayu' at
"They invade our space and we fall back.
 They assimilate entire worlds and we fall back.
-Captain Jean-Luc Picard, 'First Contact'
 /\  I.S.A. "NO" TO I.S.A.!
/  \