#KisahLawan – #Lawan Stories Vol. 1

The #KisahLawan project is keen to document the stories and experiences of #Lawan protesters, be they first-timers or veterans. This oral history project serves to be a record and source of inspiration for would-be protesters, future historians and all who will carry on our struggle. Submit yours here: bit.ly/kisahlawan

#1 – “Enough was enough.”

It was my very first time joining a protest. I was sleepless for nights, unsure whether or not I wanted to join. I was worried that I’d catch covid-19 and pass it to my family members. I was worried that I would get arrested. Before I decided to finally go, I made sure I had some money for bail if necessary. A day before the protest, I went to through the #LAWAN kit over and over again. Going over my rights and what I should do if I do get arrested. The day came. I went and got my second dose for vaccination. When I arrived at LRT Masjid Jamek, I was welcomed by siren sounds by the police, reminding the protesters to keep masking and to social distance. Enough was enough.

Throughout the protest, I kept thinking about those who had to die alone at home. Those who had to die alone on their hospital bed. Children who lost their parents in a split second. I was thinking how poor the SOP was implemented throughout the pandemic. How many people lost their source of income? I kept thinking about inept the government is in managing the pandemic. How many youth activists were called up for simply speaking up for the people’s right? When we chanted our demands, I was so proud of our fellow protesters. Everyone observed the SOP, and most were double masked. Unfortunately, we did not get to enter Dataran Merdeka, a public space that was supposed to belong to the people. 12 days post #LAWAN, I still tested negative for covid-19. – Amirul

#2 – “Truly exciting and powerful!”

Being involved in the #Lawan protest was a different experience all together. The experience vastly differs from the other protest I’ve been to.

Prior to the protest, it took a lot of planning and coordination between my team and I to ensure that we were all safe and are able to attend the protest safely.

We hid black t-shirts, developed strategies to bypass police checks and all. It truly felt as though we had to do something to bypass an insecure system.

When protesting itself, the experience felt closely unearthly. The people were singing together in solidarity and hope, we were chanting against an oppressive regime, and stood together in solidarity.

Despite the pandemic, we were able to protest safely because of the SOPs put in place prior to the protest and it made me feel more secure that we had lawyers ready to back us up in any case.

It was truly exciting and powerful! – Rif / @rifqifaisall

#3 – “What if they catch me?”

I was one of the many people in Malaysia affected by this pandemic. I had lost my job, my siblings and I couldn’t see my dad because he lives in another district and we couldn’t cross districts.

I was so angry with how the government has been treating the rakyat, especially the Prime Minister or as some people including me like to call them, the politikus. So many lives lost in just one day, and it became an everyday thing.

We are not supposed to read the day’s cases and deaths and just be like “wow” *shrugs* it is not supposed to be normalized. The government has ruined so many good things that comes with being a teenager. Road trips after SPM, outings, seeing my dad. I haven’t seen him since the third week of puasa and damn, I miss him.

I was one of the thousands of people that were on the streets that day, waiting to get into Dataran Merdeka, a place where we first had our freedom.

I was nervous to say the least, scared of the cops, the pandemic, and just had a lot of anxiety. I was also very scared after hearing Sarah’s story of being held by the police. I had also remembered the story of a friend of mine who was also held in police custody. How they were treated. What the cops did to them.

I was afraid and started thinking the worst. What if they catch me? I’ll never see my siblings. My brother at the protest wouldn’t find me. He would blame himself for not protecting me enough than he had. My boyfriend would go crazy. Are the cops going to beat me? Are they going to sexually assault me just like the stories I’ve heard?

My brother and I took the train to the protest. We wore white shirts first and he made sure that I was his main concern. While in the train, I kept over-thinking about what would happen.

When we reached the station, he left me with his trusted friend to change our clothes. We went to the toilet and changed into our black shirts. Upon trying to exit the train station, we realize that there were some people starring at us, even some (maybe) undercover cops.

We met up with everyone across the station after successfully exiting the station and we prepped for it.

When they didn’t allow us in and we sat on the road, I was glad that everyone was taking care of their distance and kept in mind that there is still an on-going pandemic.

When trying to leave the area and get to the station, there were cops at the entry point. I was scared they were going to arrest us. But thankfully, they didn’t.

I shouldn’t be scared around the police, people that are supposed to be protecting me. Why should I be scared of the police, the system? The system that failed me and thousands of other people around me. if not, millions.

The system is so broken and the Prime Minister is not doing anything to help it. Power-hungry and money-greedy isn’t supposed to be running a country. I want him out. Which is why I Keluar dan Lawan.

And I will continue to Lawan untuk semua rakyat yang affected by this. We will avenge the lives lost due to the fucked-up system. I want justice for the lives lost.

Bendera Putih isn’t something to laugh about. The PM had the balls to say “bendera hitam, bendera putih takyah kibar. bendera biru takpe.” and proceeded to laugh. Not acceptable.

I will continue to Lawan, alongside everyone else who decides to do so too. – AM

#4 – “I kept my head high.”

Caging in and trying to accept people dying cause of covid made me numb to the numbers KKM displayed every day. I felt helpless and I was exhausted of mourning for the lives we’ve lost. Lawan konvoi gave me an opportunity to do something but raising a black flag whilst driving was a crime according to the cops. I was called to the police station, police intimidated my ayah, it was heart-breaking seeing him worrying if I would end up in lokap.

Thankfully they let me go and i cannot be more grateful of the lawyer from SSR. Two weeks later, the police fined me and like always, the police told my dad first, intimidated him if we didn’t go to the police station that day then the police will come to my house (my house is 3 minutes away from the station, the police officers knew my ayah cause we live in such a small town) so we had to go without a lawyer. I remembered my heart was pounding like mad and I whispered prayers to calm myself.

The police did not interrogate me further, but 5000 ringgit was a truckload of bricks on my chest, I couldn’t face my father to ask money since I just started my first job. On the car ride back, ayah was okay with the idea of me protesting but he said I needed to be smarter and not get caught, I truly couldn’t face him. He told me that Sarah’s arrest shattered him, all he wanted was for me to be safe.

Luckily, I received a 75% discount and I had to pay RM1250, it was a lot but I was grateful. The news of my fine somehow reached to my extended family and some of them did not understand why Lawan was necessary and some even thought it was a stupid idea of the young marching to Dataran Merdeka.

I listened to their critiques, but I kept my head high, my lawan experience did not turned out as expected but I am not giving up. Every day on social media I see bright, brave and bold young people lawan, we demand for a change, we want a better Malaysia 🇲🇾 and if physical protesting is the only choice, then we’ll be there on the 21st. – Embun

#5 – “It’s the system’s fault, first and foremost.”

It hurts. Waking up every morning feeling the same dread wash over me, hearing news of family members in different states bedridden and being so close to the gate of deaths yet being unable to do anything, and finally… it hurts… when I go to work and I see families pretending as if nothing is wrong with the world.

It hurts when I have to argue with parents on why their children are not allowed inside the shop. It hurts when I have to bite my lip and not shout and cry, “Do you not care if your child dies?!” Why do I care more for the confused 3 year-old waddling in the shop more than their parents do for them? Why must I remind them that their kids cannot be vaccinated and they are of high risk? Why must I?

It hurts… because I know these are the privileged. It hurts because I know they experience a life where they feel secured and safe within the system, to the point where even a deadly virus is sure not to infect their toddlers. It hurts because I still have to raise my voice and remind these people even when it’s impossible for them to not know of the stories of those dying. It’s impossible for them to not see the people having a hard time choosing which essential item to take from the food bank that day. It’s impossible for them to not realize the state of the country. It’s impossible… yet how privileged must these people be in the system for them to not care?

It’s the system’s fault, first and foremost.

If the politicians had never gone to Sabah, if they had heeded our pleas, if they had not taken the stupid risk… we wouldn’t have had to #Lawan in the first place. We would have been free. We would have been experiencing our youths. We would not have to be in pain, seeing the privileged flaunt their easiness and the biggiest injustice to them in this world is being unable to redeem a Shopee voucher at an ice cream shop, to the point where they’ll complain and it’s the underpaid part-timers who have to hear the blames.

Students wouldn’t have had to die. Students wouldn’t have had to suffer. The education system is just as terrible. A full payment fee even when we haven’t had campus classes for a full year? Insanity. A relaxation vacation… but assignment deadlines are right after, lecturers give deadlines in 5 days for big projects and exams during the weekends?

All of this might sound like it comes from the people, like the problem isn’t with the Malaysian government in itself. It might sound like the blame is on all of the privileged, and not the Prime Minister… yet it is his fault.

If he had done a good job to begin with, this pain would not have had to be ours to bear. If the ministers in power could just take a cut off of their pay that come from tax payers anyways to help feed the people, life would be a little better. Why is it that the ones who are already struggling to live or simply getting by the ones who lose every little thing they have? While the ones who have it easy are unaffected by the least? Why can they also flaunt this privilege without any sense of social cues or social empathy? Knowing you are the representative of this country, the leader appointed, yet you are failing everyone except yourself in the face of greed and the glam and glitz of being rich?

Although Muhyiddin (I have no respect for him, he does not deserve any) is still Prime Minister, I hope he and all of the people under him who gain from him being the Prime Minister understand that they don’t deserve it. I hope they understand this is because Malaysia is in such a fragile and vulnerable state internationally. Our economy is crumbling, international investors lost faith in us once when Tun Dr. Mahathir stepped down, it would be even more horrible if our current one has to resign. Malaysia is in the hands of greedy dictators. This is capitalism in its worst form.

I wish to live. I wish to long for tomorrow. I wish for the youth they have stolen from me. – Anonymous

#6 – TODAY WE #LAWAN BECAUSE WE CAN

Today we took to the streets. 100s some say. A couple of thousand say others. I’m leaning more towards the latter. We took to the streets to show our displeasure at a government that has failed the people, a government that does not have the people’s mandate. How dare you. How dare you sit around doing nothing, gobbling up the people’s money while Parliament is shuttered and gagged. How dare you patronisingly tell the people to “”duduk diam diam”” while you flout the laws willy nilly, have parties, get fined 0.0001% of your incomes while people struggle to put food on the table, pay staff wages and a Foodpanda rider is forced to take his baby to work on a bike.

You may question, but protesting in the middle of a pandemic?? Well, when else, I ask you back. Tell me, when is a good time to go out and protest an incompetent, hypocritical government that has severely mismanaged this issue?

Civil disobedience is a constitutional right, a human right. It’s the right to protest injustice and unfairness. There is no polite way to be disobedient. There is no right time to be disobedient. So yes we went down to the streets today because you can’t. Yes we went down because we are privileged to have good health, to be alive, to be young, to have money in our pockets and a roof over our heads, no kids to dandle on our knee while working and a sound mind and body when so many others aren’t as privileged. Yes I am privileged, educated, urban, young, with no significant commitments & do not have high risk dependents and work a well-paying, 9-5 job that I can do from the comfort of my home.

And in recognising that privilege, WE bring OUR voices to speak the problems of the underprivileged. Do you recognise your privilege?

Okay, so say you are successful and Muhyiddin resigns. What then? Who better to lead, you may ask.

That’s where the other powers of our democracy come in. The parliament that has been treated thus far like the Government’s playpen. MPs can choose among themselves a new leader who can command the majority. The people will have done their part in forcing M to resign and now we pass the baton to the Parliamentarians. A Confidence and Supply Agreement has been much touted by academics as the best alternative to an election. We can see if they have it in them to put the people before their own interests. And we would have just kicked out a PM I don’t think they would underestimate the people.

At the end of the day to have a fully functioning democracy, all its components need to work. Mahathir single handedly did a number on our Judiciary and Legislative to weaken them back then. Thus today we see the spectacular mess we are in because two of our pillars have crumbled. We desperately need institutional reform to fix them. But until this happens, the people will have to take to the streets – because we can, because we must. – LavaGirl

#7 – “We are all Malaysians fighting for Malaysia.”

I headed out to Dataran Merdeka by LRT. I was supposed to go with a friend of mine but couldn’t make it due to family reasons. I guess that would be the main obstacle for people my age (19) who are still living with their parents but nonetheless I still went out even though it was a lie about doing NGO work with my friends. I could feel a sense of belonging when I got onto the LRT.

I noticed some people drenched in black outfits. It could’ve been just their normal attire but I honestly could see that they were too wearing it to oppose the government. I was just wearing a white T-shirt but then changed at the toilet at Masjid Jamek station. I met another person from my town and was also alone. We agreed to go together.

It was crowded and noisy and I felt uncomfortable with the sight of policemen watching us. I saw the gang of hooligans showing middle fingers to the helicopters, police car and media. At first I thought nothing of it, just a bunch of young people showing distaste to the government. But then I read the tweets regarding the dangers they posed. Then I understood, that they were endangering the image of LAWAN and people (even influencers) were going to only focus on this. Malaysians tend to only focus on the negatives without giving solutions or recommendations.

Even after we stopped marching, I could see that we were “together” in the sense that, we are all Malaysians fighting for Malaysia. Malays, Chinese, Indians. Young and old. I was surprised by the number of senior citizens there. One even gave me and my new friend a pat on the back at the LRT after the event saying that we should do more of this. One of the supporters gave me a piece of cardboard asking if I wanted to make my own placard. And another gave me a pack of biscuits. Small contributions but a big way of saying that were here together.

But, it was heart-breaking to see a placard by an Indian lady which says “brown Malaysian, don’t shoot” or something along the lines. I have good Indian friends, best friends even. I can’t imagine my life in Malaysia without Indian food, the Indian uncle driving his motorcycle with his dog on his lap at my neighbourhood, my mum’s Indian friends that always invite us for celebrations and dinner.

I’m surprised that none of the hooligans I mentioned before attacked the police. It officially started with us singing the national anthem. I sang as well but without the “Raja kita selamat bertakhta”. I personally feel that it’s a mockery of a multicultural Malaysia. That the failures of the government, is also the failure of the monarchy. Simply picking out our current government without rational thought.

My new friend asked why I Lawan. I told him about my grandparents’ café and resort. Both very affected with kids my age not going to college planning on working at the resort but cannot due to PKP. I told him about my cousin who lost his job. I told him about the homeless in my area now with newer homeless people I’ve never seen and the homeless children in Ampang. He told me he Lawan because of his job. He lawans for his child. I hope to see him one day. Maybe not just during a Lawan rally. But to just relish our memory during those rallies. – Anonymous