I remember this sinking feeling during the tear-gassed filled Bersih 3.0 gathering. The feeling of hopelessness and being let down. The feeling that your own government had sold you out, its own people, so that they could keep power.
I remember this feeling really well.
Bersih was the first time I felt what I did for my own country. And I was working as a Journalist in a mainstream newspaper at the time and was tasked to cover the historic gathering. What I saw broke my heart.
You have heard the testimonials and watched the countless videos online, so what I describe during Bersih would not be much different but remains significant to me because it was the first time I felt that the government does not care for the wellbeing of its people.
Firing 10 canisters of tear gas at one direction at people of all ages, some who came because the government was allowing a radioactive waste producing plant to start operations in Pahang, was inhumane.
I was equipped. Water and towel. But I wasn’t fully equipped. An old Malay aunty was suffocating very hard on the gas. She was temporarily blinded as well. So I shared my water with her. It would seem that the deed would be immediately rewarded an hour later when they caught me with tear gas dead on and the crowd was so panicked that I had nowhere to go with no water left. My body succumbed to the effects of high grade tear gas. A boy pulled me to the side and handed me salt. At first I didn’t know why the hell for. Swallowing it magically resurrected my body into its normal state. My throat opened up and my senses came back. When I opened my eyes, I realized I was brought into a mosque.
I might be exaggerating but at that point, for the odd 150,000 people trapped by gas by its own government, we were stripped of race and religion and we were just people. Everyone was helping everyone else; they didn’t care what language, skin color or what you consumed for lunch that day, because in that moment we were all Malaysians.
Yesterday was the dirtiest elections of our nation. Ample proof circulating around social media, videos, pictures and admissions had brought me back down to my knees with that sinking feeling. Does the government even care for its people? Then why deny the people who clearly demonstrated the passion for change and force them to be under a failing and rejected government?
Indelible ink that washes off, Identification cards issued to illegal immigrants and given the permission to vote, voters turned away from voting because someone had already voted with their IC number, ballot boxes arriving at counting centers after all votes for the seats there have been counted already, these ballot boxes being ushered by our own police force forcing their way through human barricades made of people who wanted to defend their counting center.
And yet some people can’t understand this sinking feeling. Maybe they do not understand what democracy is. Or they do not understand that a government is put in place to manage us and the country. Which also means it is like the people’s housekeeper. We hire the government. And we have the right to hire the best for the job.
This sinking feeling will go away as we human beings have a unique way of allowing time to heal our hearts. But some wounds never heal. This wound was just made deeper.
That deep sinking hopeless feeling.