Sea of yellow: They came in their thousands to get their point across – Photo credit: Seng Keat Tan
So the chief of police puts the turnout at 4,000 in a report tucked away on page 8 of The Star. Interesting! But then he was probably referring to the crowd at Masjid Jamek alone, where police fired water cannons, dousing the protesters with chemically laced liquid. The way The Star reported it made it sound as if 4,000 was the total turnout, although it did add later that “thousands” had turned up at various spots.
If it was really 4,000, why did they need two (or was it three) helicopters to monitor the crowd?
My estimate of the total turnout – and that was the rough consensus among those at the scene at various points – was 50,000.
Still, the actual turnout is beside the point. The real story was the fact that tens of thousands of Malaysians had come out – despite repeated warnings and threats of arrest – to defy a ban and put across their demand for electoral reforms, loudly and clearly.
I was proud to be a Malaysian among the good natured and peaceful crowd that afternoon.
As for the mainstream media coverage, it was pathetic. I woke up this morning expecting it to be front page news. After all, news of the protest gathering had flashed across the globe yesterday. But when I saw the front page of The Sunday Star today… zilch, nada, nothing…. Was this for real? It seemed as if I must have been on a different planet. It was only reported half-heartedly on page 8. Tens of thousands of people had brought Kuala Lumpur to a virtual standstill the day before and… Page 8! Disgusting coverage. But then again, what else can we expect from our castrated mainstream media?
Meanwhile, check out Aliran president P Ramakrishnan’s statement here.
RIGHTS-MALAYSIA: Rally Defies Police Ban to Demand Poll Reforms
By Anil Netto
KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 10 (IPS) – Tens of thousands of people defied riot police, water cannon and pouring rain to march through the capital city, on Saturday, to demand electoral and other reforms and deliver a strong rebuff to Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi.
On Friday Badawi had issued a stern warning that he would brook no challenge to his rule and officials said anybody around Dataran Merdeka (Independence Square), the planned venue of the protest gathering, would be arrested.
That made the turnout of over 50,000 people, sloshing through muddy grass verges by the highway, all the more impressive as they engaged in a cat-and-mouse game with police armed with water cannons and batons.