“The betrayal of Bukit Chandan” by Mariam Mokhtar

Posted on April 14, 2015

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Democracy died in Perak on Feb 6, 2009. After Friday prayers, the rakyat staged a peaceful sit-down protest. One scene evokes strong memories of Tiananmen Square when one pakcik halted the progress of a black, heavily-tinted Mercedes carrying a VIP to the palace at Bukit Chandan, in Kuala Kangsar.

The pakcik was not armed, nor did he throw rocks, nor swear at the occupants of the car. He simply lay down on the road, in front of the car. The pakcik cut a lonely figure, just like the man who had defiantly stood in front of the tanks of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in Beijing in 1989.

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It would be wrong to claim that the incident at Bukit Chandan is like Tianamen Square, where thousands lost their lives when the PLA emptied their AK-47s into the crowd. But the tremor created in Tiananmen Square is similar to that felt in Perak, and throughout Malaysia, to this day.

On that Friday in 2009, the rakyat tried to protect their constitution, but the institutions of the state betrayed the rakyat. Today, 12 men and one woman have been made the scapegoats and punished with hefty fines and imprisonment by the government, which is as murky as the waters of the Perak River flowing past Bukit Chandan.

There are other similarities with Tiananmen. In 1989, thousands of Beijing residents and students had amassed in Tiananmen Square, around The Great Hall of the People, close to Mao Zedong’s mausoleum. Also in 2009, the villagers from Sayong and Muslims from outside Perak heeded the urging by the rightful Perak MB then, PAS’ Nizar Jamaluddin, to join him in Friday prayers at Masjid Ubudiah, in Bukit Chandan.

In February, 2009, Istana Iskandariah could be considered forbidden territory and was off-limits to the kampung people, passers-by and uninvited guests to the swearing-in ceremony of Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir, the man selected by Najib Abdul Razak to lead Perak.

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Police manned a road block in front of the Ubudiah mosque, preventing any non-essential traffic from approaching the palace. FRU lorries and armed policemen, like a forbidding force, kept a wary eye on the sultan’s loyal subjects. The police carried Mauser action rifles, revolvers in their belt, shields, tear gas rifles and lathis to beat the protesters.

When it was clear that the crowd refused to disperse, and cries of “Reformasi” broke out, the riot police charged and fired volleys of tear gas into the crowd. The rakyat fled under this vicious onslaught, seeking refuge in the mosque, but a young boy was injured by a tear gas canister. The rakyat responded by lobbing bottles at the police.

The rakyat wanted the sultan to dissolve the state assembly and call fresh elections. The friction between state and citizens happened because of one man, Najib. He started a chain reaction and continues to cause wide rifts and divisions in society, not just in Perak. He is shameful!

Would be an intriguing political thriller

The run-up to the day on which democracy died in Perak would make an intriguing political thriller.

It has all the right ingredients – frogs, ships, jealousy, greed, fear, political ascendency, promises, suitcases, lineage, villagers, the magical neo-Mughal architecture of the Ubudiah Mosque, an unapproachable ruler, an interfering deputy prime minister, an idyllic rural scene of a river meandering past tropical palm trees which line its banks, and a leafy green avenue leading to the ivory-coloured istana.

On that February day, the tree-lined vista shielded from view the ugly machinations of a few greedy people. They know who they are.

The ‘Perak 13′ were protesting against Zambry’s appointment as menteri besar. Today, the ‘Perak 13′ are forced to languish in prison cells because the state wants to show its might and make the ‘Perak 13′ suffer. Most of the 12 men and one woman are the breadwinners of their families and without them, their families will face hardship.

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The ‘Perak 13′ sacrificed their freedom to fight for true democracy and reforms. We can continue the fight from outside prison. The ‘Perak 13′ made a stand, which is more than the majority of the rakyat have done. The ‘Perak 13′ are now paying the price for fighting a corrupt, dictatorial regime.

The least we can do is donate towards the upkeep of the children of the ‘Perak 13′ while their parents are in prison. The ‘Perak 13′ have done their bit; it is now our turn to show our gratitude.
Please give generously. Thank you.

(Please check here for details on donating.)


MARIAM MOKHTAR is a defender of the truth, the admiral-general of the Green Bean Army and president of the Perak Liberation Organisation (PLO).

REPUBLISHED WITH THE PERMISSION OF THE AUTHOR