While Monash University Malaysia campus administration warned students not to attend the Nov 19 rallies, they could not stop comedian Jo Kukathas from talking about the Bersih 5 rally during the university's convocation ceremony held on the same day.
Jo had attended the afternoon event immediately after participating in the rally that morning. She was to deliver the commencement address. A video recording of that speech has been uploaded online.
"It's a momentous day for you, it's a momentous day for this country. It is a day when your private history collided with the history of this country
"And through this private convocation, into the public sphere," she said in her opener.
Jo asked the students how they would remember this day, before giving her own anecdotal account.
"I will remember today as a day that I went to Bersih in the morning..." she said in answering her own question with a dramatic pause at the end.
This was met with rousing applause from the audience.
Every present fear
She asked the students again how they would remember 2016, and if they would be able to get all that they wanted.
Though she said that 2016 was not a good year as it intersected with many ominous events, such as the passing of David Bowie, Brexit, the election of Donald Trump as US president and the rise of Roberto Duterte in the Philippines.
She related this to her own experience with ever-present fear, growing up the daughter of K Dass, a diplomat turned dissident journalist, who had to endure surveillance by the police Special Branch and scrutiny of his work in exposing government wrongdoings.
Her fear was personified by the ever-present Special Branch car parked outside her family home.
She also spoke of how her father had told her that the government should be working for the people and not the other way around. However, the powers that be often forgot this and at times stole the people's candle and left them in the dark, she said.
Jo said that her father taught her to stand up to the candle thieves, and she bore this to heart.
The actor and activist related how soon after Ops Lalang which saw scores arrested and newspapers shut down, she and her friends decided to fight back, through theatre, putting on shows and plays that helped Malaysians laugh at themselves and the powers that be while still campaigning for change.
She said that just as she felt fear that day after Ops Lalang, she feels fear now too.
Chart your own course
Jo reminded the students that as they live in the age of the internet, they should not get distracted by data, but to be informed by it, as the wealth of information they now have access to would be unheard off during her father's time, and the government cannot control information like they once did.
Whatever the case, Jo asked that the students not to ignore the dark episodes of the world for it will one day collide with their lives.
She said that the years to come will not be quite hunky-dory as well, for the world after all the ominous happenings in 2016 will be a dark one, even slipping in a reference to Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak and the RM2.6 billion donation.
The thespian remarked that the fear is now parked right outside the students' gates, just like the Special Branch car that was once parked outside of her family home.
In the end, Jo said that she doesn't know how the students should deal with the reality that is now knocking on their doors, but said that she has one thing to tell them:
"Don't wait for someone else to save the world, please, save it yourself."-Mkini