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The Spark is Lit - Sabri Zain 20/9/98
By Kapal Berita
20/9/2000 5:28 pm Wed
Rencana ini disiarkan untuk mengingati peristiwa kebangkitan rakyat.
September 20th, 1998
The Spark Is Lit
I'm bad with numbers - so I can't tell you how accurate Internet reports
were of over 100,000 people being at the anti-government rally today. It
certainly was very easily in the tens of thousands. Numbers are pretty
difficult to tell when the whole stretch of the road from Independence
Square to the National Mosque was an ocean of people, spilling into the
side streets, into the mosque compound, and into the nearby Islamic
Centre and Railway Station.
They had apparently been told to move from Independence Square, so the
crowd proceeded to the National Mosque and gathered in the compound
facing the Islamic Centre. To their credit, the police kept a low
profile, and the crowds behaved peacefully. It was a mixed bag of people
- families, students, yuppies - of all races, though the majority was
Malay. It was heart-warming to see this 60-year old Chinese pensioner
standing next to me punching his fist into the air and shouting
?Reformasi!?. Who says it is only the young who want change?
Anwar Ibrahim arrived at about 4:30 p.m. to deafening cries of
?Reformasi!?. They didn?t have a proper public address system, so he had
to use a hand-held loud-hailer. He played the fiery orator to the hilt -
but the person who won me heart and soul was his wife Wan Azizah. She
was a tower of strength by his side - and when she spoke it was
electric. She had all the passion of a woman whose husband had been
wronged and the calm determination of the righteous confronting the full
forces of darkness.
There was a moment of tension when someone shouted that there was a TV3
crew around, and a few rowdies pelted them with empty drink packets, to
shouts of ?Penipu!? (Liars!) ?Anjing!?(Dogs!). I, unfortunately, only
had a glass Coke bottle, and I didn't want to accidentally hurt anyone!
But Anwar ordered them to calm down, quipping ?Let them do their job ...
I definitely know that this particular crew secretly supports me!?
The crowd proceeded to Independence Square after that - no one could
stop them now, there was a virtual sea of people. From the theatre stage
of Independence Square, Wan Azizah again spoke, delivering the Pledge of
"We who are gathered here in Kuala Lumpur pledge to defend the freedom
and sanctity of the nation to the last drop of our blood ? we resolve to
revive the spirit of freedom ? we will not suffer injustice and
oppression in the land ? we will not suffer the replacement of foreign
oppressors with those raised from among ourselves ? we oppose all cruel
and oppressive laws which deny the people their fundamental rights and
freedoms ? we denounce those who corrupt our system of justice ? we
denounce corruption, abuse of power and the conspiracy devised by a
greedy elite to blind the people to the truth in order to maintain their
grip on power and wealth "
"We raise the spirit of freedom! We are united against oppression! We
are united in our resolve to establish justice! Long live the people!
Give victory to Reform! We demand the resignation of Dr Mahathir
She was even more electric than at the mosque. After a thunderous cry of
?Reformasi!? from the crowd, she asked everyone to disperse peacefully.
I think we are seeing a real leader come out from the wings - they say
real character emerges during adversity and it is then that the best
comes out of people. Whatever happens to Anwar, Wan Azizah has my
unreserved vote. Definitely First Lady material, maybe even first woman
Prime Minister material too!
Today's rally was also, personally, a nostalgic experience. Twenty-four
years ago, in 1974, I was a young 15 year-old schoolboy going to what
was then the Selangor Library, just behind Independence Square, to do
some studying for my exams. I turned the corner into the Square only to
see hundreds of young people running towards me being pursued by Federal
Reserve Unit (FRU) riot police. It was the 1974 student demonstrations
against poverty in Baling. Tear gas canisters were exploding around me,
batons were waving, some students had blood on their clothes.
I was caught in the wave of people running for sanctuary in the National
Mosque - but they were pursued even there. The memory of FRU troopers
with batons and shields strutting in their boots in a mosque that choked
of tear gas is something I will never forget in all my life. It changed
me forever. A few days later, a young student leader from the Malaysian
Islamic Youth Movement - I think his name was Anwar Ibrahim - delivered
a speech at Bukit Kerinchi to the protesting students. I was there too.
Today, my apartment block rests on that very spot where he talked to
How things have changed - and not changed.
Some hours after this was written and posted over the Internet, police
and demonstrators clashed just outside the residence of the Prime
Minister. At around 9 p.m. masked police in balaclavas and armed with
sub-machine guns stormed Anwar Ibrahim's home. In front of his wailing
children, he was arrested and detained without trial under the Internal
Security Act (ISA). He was not to be seen in public until nine days
later, at his first court appearance - severely beaten and with an
injured black eye.