ROSE volunteers at BERSIH 4 Kuching
The urgent call for volunteers to man the ROSE voter registration booth at BERSIH 4 Kuching went out at 11pm on the 25th of August. On that same night, we had 1 response. By the next morning we had 2, then 5, then 7 and finally we had 12. Out of the 15 who responded, at least half were first-time volunteers at events of this nature. One volunteer came all the way from Miri and answered our call for volunteers. Despite the trepidation that things could get ugly, despite the heat, despite the discomfort, ROSE is proud that with the help of these passionate Sarawakians, we managed to register 100 voters in 3 hours!
The ROSE voter registration booth at Song Kheng Hai Hawker Center, BERSIH 4 Kuching
The following is a reflection from one of our first-time ROSE volunteers, Li Ern. Her first contact with ROSE was through the Beyond Kliktivism forum organised way back in May. (If you missed our event, the videos are up here!)
First-time ROSE volunteer, Li Ern.
It was a quiet and peaceful affair, as far as BERSIH 4 Kuching was concerned. On August 29th 2015, just like every other BERSIH destination, ours kicked off at 2 p.m. on a hot and sunny Saturday afternoon. There were four main gathering points in town for people to gather, and we would then march to Song Kheng Hai rugby field thereafter. I chose the Jubilee Ground gathering point, which brought back primary school memories as we often ate kolo mee or ABC (ice kacang) after class as school was just next door.
As it was my first Bersih experience, I did not know what to expect. Many advised me to go in long pants and sports shoes, and not in contact lenses (for fear of tear gas). If you ask me today, I would advise you to dress your best Kuching attire the next round - yellow, in shorts, sunglasses and slippers.
It was a typical Kuching sight, where everyone was hogging the hawker table with his favorite "white lady" and "metahorn", just that everyone happened to be in yellow. While waiting for more people to arrive, we were handing out leaflets with information on Bersih and what to do if we got arrested. At about 3 p.m., after a short introduction by Ann, we marched to our destination carrying our placards, flags and umbrellas. Under the hot sun, we waved at cars who shouted "Bersih" from their window screens, and we also tried doing some Hidup Bersih chants - though not as convincing as our Kuala Lumpur counterparts.
There were about five thousand people gathered at the rugby field, which was an achievement on its own, considering that there was only a thousand who turned up for Bersih2. I heard that out of the five thousand people present, there were 15 bus loads of people who came from other districts like Sibu, Miri, Kapit, Simunjan and Sri Aman. There were speeches from 12 different speakers, of which I only stayed for four and then excused myself to carry out my volunteering duties.
Yes, to top my Bersih4 experience, I had the chance to volunteer under ROSE (Rise of Sarawakian Efforts) to help with registering first-time voters. We staged a huge 'Daftar Undi' banner and a portable photocopier next to the famous coconut tebu stall, which was having a windfall. Many young people above the age of 21 came waving their identity cards at us, and there were also a few older rural folks who needed us to help fill out their SPR (Suruhanjaya Pilihanraya) forms. If you were to ask me, voter registration is just the elementary step of the whole process.
Step 0: Register as a voter.
Step 1: Come out and vote.
To the delight of all, we managed to register more than a hundred voters. Besides registering new voters, some of us were also campaigning to get people to volunteer as PACAs (polling and counting agents).
Being a first-Bersih-timer, I realized that I have not been as politically awake as I am today. And I believe that there are many young ones out there who are also going through this 'awakening process'. Better late than never. Bersih has inevitably charged up the political atmosphere and has made its mark in empowering the Rakyat. I mean, following the drone pictures and videos of the sea of yellow in Kuala Lumpur, how can one not be moved? We need to know the extent of the power the people carry. We need to shift the power back to the people and make demands for our generation. In simple action terms, we need to register as voters, and VOTE. I am convinced that this awakening process has started in Sarawak, yet at the same time, we know that we need to take this awareness to the rural folks. There is a lot of work to be done, and there is a lot of work to be done in Sarawak. Sarawak is crucial in bringing change to the nation. Bersih is just the beginning. On a personal note, I look forward to my first PACA training and also heading into the interiors of Sarawak to spread this awareness. If this resonates with you, come on board with us! The best is yet to come, Malaysia.
BERSIH 4 has come and gone. But we at ROSE hope that this new wave of Malaysians who are willing to speak up and stand up against the many wrongs that are plaguing our nation will continue to grow and grow and grow until they become a force that can no longer be silenced or ignored.
The best is yet to come. For the love of Malaysia.