Bersih 2.0- to go or not to go? That must the question popping in everyone's minds especially those who have not attended street demos of that kind before. It's daunting, especially when the Home Minister promises to use the ISA on the Bersih participants caught on 9th July 2011. Not to mention the water canons, smoke-grenades, riot shields and batons awaiting. Some say let the ballot box do the talking, and street protests are not the way.
Wangsa Maju had some fair experience in a street demo back in 2008. The demo was held at the DBKL HQ at Jalan Raja Laut and not in Wangsa Maju though. You see, somewhere in May 2008, after the 14th General Election, the DBKL saw fit to demolish about 8 major hawker areas in Desa Setapak and few other areas in Wangsa Maju. The reason for doing so was well, not a new reason- it was over a permit issue which spanned over more than a decade (I think). Yes, the hawkers, who had been operating a long time there, right on Government 'land', did not have the proper permits to build permanent structures. Some of the hawkers alleged that they had tried applying for permits for years but DBKL never approved them. So on the fateful day of 21st May 2008, while the Wangsa Maju MP was still at a Parliament session, the DBKL came with heavyweight equipment and ran the stalls to the ground. The machinery was so heavy that it left potholes on the tarred road of Desa Setapak.
Such operations may be valid from the Town Council's viewpoint especially when it is a permit issue, but it causes more anguish when the demolishing of the illegal stalls are race-selected- ie Chinese stalls demolished but not the illegal stalls own by Malays sitting next to the Chinese-owned stalls. Many people were were saying- 'what the hell is this, DBKL?'
|1st to 3rd pics above: Graffiti of protest from "THEY' the infamous underground graffiti artist, on the walls on the demolished hawker stalls|
|Above: The aftermath of the demolition.|
There were various forms of protest- direct protest came from Wee Choo Keong, the hawkers, the blogs, the graffiti artists and indirect protests were from the Wangsa Maju community itself. The issue was more than a permit matter- it was a show of barbaric racism from DBKL.
The Wangsa Maju hawkers, various Wangsa Maju folk and Wee Choo Keong organized a street protest right in front of the DBKL building at Jalan Raja Laut. The street protest was supported by the 11 freshly-elected Kuala Lumpur MPs. Yes, election was held at March 2008 remember? Just couple of months after the GE, DBKL 'show power dee?'
Wee Choo Keong was very hands on- he taught the hawkers how to protest, how to organize it and even taught the protesters how to write the place cards, as most of the protesters then were first-timers. Without his mentorship, the protest would have never succeeded. The believe was, if something was wrong, we had to speak up.
|Above: Wee Choo Keong teaching the protesters how to write place cards.|
On with Bersih 2.0.