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Thursday at Ambiga’s

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Zaharom Nain describes the scene at Ambiga’s house when a bunch of ‘petty traders’ and racist youths turned up with their unwelcome messages.

Photograph: keadilandaily.com

Well, 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**.
– Sean, my expatriate English friend

God, that lot are b…. 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, Kee Thuan Chye, last Wednesday read, “Wanna join me for the pooja at Ambiga’s home tomorrow?”

Indeed, Thursday was going to be the first of the two days during which the anti-Bersih petty traders’ led by the slimy Jamal Mohd Yunos had planned to set up stalls in the enclave where Bersih co-chair Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan lives.

I’d 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 28 April 2012.

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.

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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 konfrantasi 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 primitive level.

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 a free and fair election. And to ask that we be given nothing less, as befitting a `democratic’ society.

When we finally arrived in her neighbourhood that Thursday afternoon, the place looked like a crime scene, with almost a hundred police personnel and DBKL enforcement officers having set up a roadblock at the top of her street.

After we had walked through the army of newsmen and women, we were warmly greeted at Ambiga’s gate by the always smiling Hishamuddin Rais and ushered into her home.

Well-wishers 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.

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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.

At around 4.00pm, 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’.

All I remember is that they had white T-shirts that proclaimed `Halau’. Evidently these drop-outs 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.
Next 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.

Why the change of mind, I wouldn’t like to hazard a guess, save for the possibility that they finally realised that they were making a total mockery and utter ninnies not only of themselves but also of their benefactors.

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Indeed, since the deputy IGP 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 lawlessness. 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 thrown in?

How 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.

It 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.

Zaharom Nain is an Aliran member based in the Klang Valley.

Source: malaysiakini.com

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

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Farzana Abdul Aziz
Farzana Abdul Aziz
10 Apr 2013 11.52am

I’m a practising lawyer and I have never bothered to attend any of the political campaigns whether by the government or the opposition. But I could never support any of the actions made by Ambiga and the lot. Most of the time, I tend to agree with the view that the issues raised by Ambiga are of trivial issues and yet dangerous. Over the years I have learned that lawyers apart from politicians are ‘very damaging people’.

victor kumar sinniah
11 Jun 2012 12.55pm

Is campaigning for a fair and clean general election an anti government action? The BN government is making a fool of itself by treating Datuk Ambiga with hate and contempt. The BN leaders are disgraceful in supporting their racist goons who are actually taking BN’s chance in the next GE down the drain.When are you going to treat us voters with respect and dignity. The people have already proved to you in the last GE that they cannot be taken for a ride. I for one will never vote for you ever for all the damage you have done.

2 Jun 2012 6.47am

Freedom of association is in the works right here. Can’t really say that they are motivated by money, a lot of them resent moves by Ambiga, however misinformed they might be. They’re just exercising their rights, albeit in a very very disagreeable way.

At best, at least through my point of view, they’re bad examples.

However I don’t see your point in pointing the army in such degrading manner. Sure, resent their ways, but pointing out they would lose to Girl Guides of America is just poor taste.

If we take some time to see what is it that’s going on with Bersih, and other movements, why not their plights as well?

28 May 2012 6.42pm

I thank Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan for all that she has done and continues to do. I support her objectives, nothing less than bringing Malaysia and Malaysians up from the depths we have sunk to due to utter mismanagement by a bunch of people who have overstayed their welcome by decades. The pursuit of truth makes us smarter but the pursuit of falsehoods turns us in the opposite direction. Our present government is totally responsible for undermining our country’s education standards leaving us further and further behind our neighbouring countries by their efforts to BOTH hide and ignore the truth wherever it appears.

28 May 2012 4.42pm

Stay strong Ambiga and stand your ground. It is despicable and shameful, these lot of anti-Bersih rowdies and ironic isn’t it as it stands to reason, the noble work and ultimate aim of what Bersih stands for – in reality protects and safeguard the futures – to also includes the (paid?) crowd in attendance, messing about at the front of Ambiga’s residence. Picking on Ambiga shows just how desperate UMNO has become as we all know, failure to hold on to seat of power will result in prosecution of many notables in uMNO – starting with past president, the Tun (very vocal of late) who 30 years ago, pave the path to ruins of a nation. May I suggest Aliran and other such publication write to inform and publish the insidious … language mouth off by the old man of late. Better yet, send an official note to the Agung whom I sure would appreciates being kept inform of the open threats coming from this bane of a nation – seriously – because of Tunku’s battle, right till the end to expose the tyranny of Tun… Read more »

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