Malaysians gather in front of Parliament House, Canberra as part of Bersih 4.

Malaysians gather in front of Parliament House, Canberra as part of Bersih 4.

They may have been thousands of kilometres from KL, but that didn’t stop Malaysians in Canberra (and further afield) joining Bersih 4.0.

Canberra, the capital of Australia, is relatively unknown to Malaysians, particularly when compared to Perth, Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide and Brisbane. The Malaysian community here is made up mostly of university students and a small diaspora.

But over the weekend, the Australian capital was the scene of an important story that I’d like to share with you. And it’s all to do with last weekend’s incredible show of people power in KL and the Global Bersih movement.

We were scheduled to start our local Canberra rally at 3pm (1pm Malaysian time). I was really upset when only a few people turned up for the free transport from the Australian National University to Parliament House. At most, there were 30 attendees.

No words could describe how discouraged and down I was, simply because I was expecting at least 50 participants. It made me feel worse when I looked at Melbourne and Perth, where they had more than a thousand people gathering for Global Bersih.

I asked myself, why is it so hard for Canberra to get even 50? Had I not done enough to make people come?

I was the last to leave the pick-up point to meet my team who were already at Parliament House.

When I arrived things started to change. What I saw was totally surprising. More than 100 people had turned up for our rally! A lot of them did not want to burden us as students and therefore decided to travel by themselves.

I was touched to see kind souls like Uncle Lim in his 70s who didn’t know there was a Bersih rally in Sydney, and so drove three-and-a-half hours with his wife to Canberra just to attend our rally.

We also had friends from Wagga Wagga, who travelled four hours to meet us! And of course, many students turned up in the end as well.

To my friends who stayed up till 3am in the early morning of Wednesday, sticking Bersih 4.0 posters around campus while enduring the merciless weather of three degrees Celsius and bitingly cold breeze, to my beloved Bersih Canberra volunteers, and to my friends who designed such cool Najib and Rosmah posters, I would like to express my utmost gratitude.

Without your help, this event would not have been so successful. The strong turnout for our Canberra rally was definitely worth the time and effort. I hope all of you enjoyed our picnic protest.

Due to potential spying from the Malaysian High Commission, I am not going to mention any names. But, you know who you are!

After Saturday’s Canberra rally, I was informed that my name (again) was recorded in the report prepared by the High Commission and submitted back to Putrajaya.

So let us respond to our Deputy Foreign Minister’s statement on the intention to identity all the overseas Bersih organisers: “Well, if that’s the case, so be it.”

We believe everyone will eventually be answerable to their maker. At the very least, we know that we have done nothing wrong.

All we ask for is free and fair elections in Malaysia.

It was a great opportunity to have our demonstration in front of the symbolic Australian Parliament House because the building signifies the struggle of many of their generations and how much they have gone through in order to achieve and enjoy the freedom and democracy they have today.

A Philip Randolph was right. “Freedom is never given; it is won.”

Sum Dek Joe is a Malaysian national studying at the Australian National University, Canberra. He organised and led Canberra’s Global Bersih rally on Saturday.