Friday, May 9, 2008

Candlelight Vigil For Detained Blogger


A candlelight vigil gathering for a detained Malaysian blogger, Raja Petra Kamarudin, was scheduled to be held at Dataran Merdeka in Kuala Lumpur on the evening of May 8, 2008 at 8.00pm. I arrived around half an hour beforehand and was greeted by the sight of the boys in blue coming out in force at both ends of the main road fronting Dataran Merdeka.

As a picture montage of Malaysia's Deputy Prime Minister, Dato' Seri Najib Tun Razak, appears in the background at the City Hall building, the cops takes a breather for some chit-chat. Raja Petra Kamarudin, a member of the Malaysian royalty, was charged on May 6, 2008 with sedition charges in respect of his article, 'Let’s send the Altantuya murderers to hell', for allegedly implying the deputy prime minister was involved in the sensational killing of a young Mongolian woman.

After 20 minutes past eight, I was beginning to think no one, except for the cops, would show up for the candlelight vigil. Then a woman all wrapped up in what looked liked a burqa, as seen on the left of the above picture, appears and starts a commotion. So the plainclothes cops decides to drags her to a corner for interrogation. As I start photographing, the cops come to realize of my existence and asks me to step out of the security cordon surrounding Dataran Merdeka. (Hey, it isn't my fault that my barber thinks I look better with a paratrooper haircut...)

See, now I get booted out of the security cordon and have to shoot from the other side of the barrier. Even this cop's not givin' me the time of the day! I'm tellin' ya, I get no respect at all...

The police officer in charge demands that the small crowd milling about, obviously appearing for the candlelight vigil, to disperse within ten minutes. From what I could see, the cops definitely out-numbered the crowd at least by a factor of 5 to 1. As the crowd break up slowly, some the cops trail along until both parties reach a nearby 7-11. (A Slurpee from 7-11? RM2.50. Sharing it with the cops? Priceless. For everything else, there's

"This is better than strolling along the Seine River! Ya know what I mean?" An obviously cheerful Hishamuddin Rais (writer and social-political activist) and likewise Tian Chua (Member of Parliament of Malaysia) appear moments later and head out to Dataran Merdeka accompanied by a band of bloggers and supporters.

"How's the back pain coming along, huh? Ya oughta try yoga someday, ya know what I'm sayin'?" Tian Chua greets a plainclothes police officer.

"How's the kids, huh? What did you say? Fighting one another and blaming each other? Gee, sounds like a party I know..." Tian Chua greets another police officer, this time in uniform.

Tian Chua and Hishamuddin Rais negotiates with the police officer in charge for access to the Royal Selangor Club, which is located within the grounds of Dataran Merdeka. Apparently the wife of Raja Petra Kamarudin, Marina Lee Abdullah, was already in the club premises and waiting for Tian Chua and the rest of the entourage accompanying him.

The police officer in charge, a Mr. Anand, takes a moment to consider Tian Chua's request and calls in to his superiors for consultation. Moments later, he gets the green light and permits Tian Chua and the entourage to enter the grounds of Dataran Merdeka with the conditions that they do not stop for any reason whatsoever before reaching the club premises and that no candles be lighted up during their transit.

Marina Lee Abdullah and a friend in the club premises. Despite the ordeals faced of having a husband detained in jail, she manages to retain a degree of cheerfulness for visitors and well-wishers. Later, she confirmed that Raja Petra Kamarudin has agreed to post bail and would appear tomorrow at a Sessions Court for processing of the bail.

The candlelight vigil for Raja Petra Kamarudin. Tian Chua, Hishamuddin Rais and others lights up candles placed on the fence of Royal Selangor Club facing Dataran Merdeka. Since the vigil was being held within the club premises, the boys in blue did not take any action and merely observed the proceedings from the other side of the fence. All in all, the said article and the chain reaction it has provoked may turn out to be the end of a beginning or the beginning of the end. But as to who, what, and where, I shall leave it to speculation.

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