A pedestrian would find unremarkable the underpass that he has to pass through on his way from Brickfields to KL Central for his daily commute. Nor would it be of particular interest to him that the underpass has been turned into a tunnel by construction works.
But it would be in this unobtrusive tunnel that a key incident, nay, an atrocity, would be perpetrated on an august group of Malaysian parlimentarians, NGO leaders and citizens making their way to join the Bersih rally in the Kuala Lumpur city centre on July 9th.
They included Anwar Ibrahim, Dr.Wan Azizah, Ustaz Hadi Awang, Lim Kit Siang, Ambiga Sreenivasa, A.Samad Said, Khalid Samad, Nurul Izzah Anwar, Tian Chua and N.Surendran among others. As they walked towards the exit they were confronted by the FRU. Tian Chua and Surendran walked ahead, presumably to negotiate with the FRU, both being veterans of many a confrontation with the authorities. But the FRU were already aiming their guns. Surendran, seeming to sense trouble, started moving back towards the main group, calling on Tian Chua to move back. But Tian Chua kept advancing, like a latter-day Lord Cardigan, not willing to believe perhaps, that the police would actually fire on such a distinguished group. In the next instant, the scene dissapeared in acrid, lung-burning tear gas smoke as the police, without warning, discharged their weapons. The looks on the leaders faces, as the scene dissolved, was one of stunned bewilderment. Those attempting to escape by retreating backwards were met by another FRU phalanx and more tear gas canisters. Incredibly, the police were aiming directly into the body of the crowd, instead of over them. And there was no way out!
In such a closed environment, the results could have been deadly. Tear gas in a closed environment can cause permanent pulmonary damage, asphyxiation, cynide poisoning, severe vomitting and death. It is used often on civilians in Malaysia when it is, in fact, banned as a weapon in war, being considered a chemical warfare weapon.
There was no provocation offered by the marchers to justify this potentially deadly use of tear gas. They were walking towards the Merdeka Stadium, and that was all. Dr. Wan Azizah, Lim Kit Siang and Ustaz Hadi were not likely to suddenly start pelting the FRU with stones. Yet the walkers were attacked. It was either a malicious plan by the BN government, or the police in KL Central were led by an incomprehensibly stupid commander. Either way, the BN is responsible.
When the smoke cleared enough for visibility to return, Anwar Ibrahim was bleeding from the head and the knee. He had fallen in the rush and would be rushed to Pantai Hospital for a CT scan. Khalid Samad was seriously hurt from being hit by a tear gas canister. Anwar's bodyguard, Fayedh, was standing with a 4 inch hole in his cheek in a blood-drenched shirt, still loyally protecting Anwar and refusing to attend to himself. Surendran stood next to them, his shirtsleeves bloody, gasping for breath like everybody else.
Tian Chua had been arrested, as had Ambiga and several others, including Anwar's youngest daughter Nurul Iman, a carbon-copy of her mother, Dr.Wan Azizah. Nurul Izzah had been told she was arrested, but seeing herself unattended to, left to help a vomitting marcher; and was thus, by her own fiat, unarrested! Miraculously, despite the reckless use of tear gas in a closed environment by the police, nobody was dead. Across the city, though, in front of the KLCC, a protestor would die on July 9th of the effects of uncaring use of tear gas.
This incident in the KL Central may well mark the end of the BN regime for good. No right-thinking Malaysian can vote for a brutal and barbarous government which thinks nothing of gassing respected oppositionists and parliementarians.
Note : The above is based on composite eyewitness accounts.