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Friday, November 25, 2016

Ambiga: Maria Chin, the woman who introduced me to Bersih

When it comes to the Bersih movement, most Malaysians are more familiar with its former co-chairperson Ambiga Sreenevasan.

Having led the memorable Bersih 2 and Bersih 3 rallies, one would be forgiven to think that current Bersih chief Maria Chin Abdullah was a less known successor to Ambiga.

But Ambiga, who met Maria seven years ago, said it was the latter who was the real woman behind Bersih.

Pointing out that she did not attend the first Bersih rally held in 2007, Ambiga said Maria and political analyst Wong Chin Huat had visited her at her office and gave her the “honour of leading Bersih”.

“I was leader of the Bar Council, then I became an activist. (But) Maria is a born activist.

“She and her husband Yunus (Ali) - their lives had been one of service to the people,” said Ambiga raising her voice to stress her point.

Ambiga related this at the launch of the ‘Free Maria and Abolish Sosma’ campaign which drew a 2,000-strong crowd.
She chastised the powers-that-be for arresting and detaining Maria.

“Have you ever gone to every part of this country to fight for free and fair elections? Maria has.

“Have you won the hearts and minds of the people? Maria has. And that is why we will never forgive what you are doing to her,” thundered Ambiga.

The campaign, held at the Petaling Jaya Community Library last night, saw a packed hall.

More than a thousand had to make do by either sitting or standing in front of a screen to follow the event outside the hall.

Apart from speeches made by a string of political leaders and activists, those who came to show their support for Maria were entertained by several guitar performances and poetry reading.

Very much the responsive audience, clapping their hands and singing along during the performances, many also took the opportunity to take pictures inside the mock prison erected outside the hall.

The mock prison, although made up of wood, resembled a real jail cell.

Organisers of the event said the mock prison was to show the conditions of Maria, who is currently held in solitary confinement.

Maria is being detained under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act (Sosma) and probed under Section 124(c) of the Penal Code for being involved in activities “detrimental to parliamentary democracy”.

She was arrested on the eve of the Nov 19 Bersih 5 rally that saw over 40,000 people marching in the streets of Kuala Lumpur to demand good governance and clean elections.
‘Mental and physical torture’

Inspector-general of police (IGP) Khalid Abu Bakar yesterday brushed off claims that Maria had been abused while in detention.

But Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram) executive director Sevan Doraisamy argued that being held in solitary confinement for 28 days was torture.

“That’s mental and physical torture.”

Meanwhile, Petaling Jaya Utara lawmaker Tony Pua poured scorn on Khalid who said that Maria was not given a mattress as she did not ask for it.

“I have one request tonight, when I get arrested, you must ask for a bed and pillow for me. I don’t need air conditioning...

“If possible I want free WiFi. Better still, give me a PlayStation for me to pass time,” he said, to laughter from the crowd.

On Maria purportedly being investigated for receiving funding from Open Society Foundation, Pua pointed out how “thousands” of NGOs and companies similarly receive foreign funding.

“If they did get foreign funding from some foundation - RM20,000 to RM30,000 - if they did and they use it for projects to improve democracy in Malaysia, is it wrong?” queried Pua.

Apart from Pua, other political leaders and activists who spoke last night were opposition leader Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, Parti Amanah Negara lawmaker Siti Mariah Mahmud, Bersih leaders Shahrul Aman Mohd Saari and Hishamuddin Rais, Bersih volunteer Ivy Josiah and environmentalist Wong Tack, among others.

Maria’s three sons also gave brief speeches before the event, which concluded with a doa (prayer) session.

The event’s host announced that the nightly vigils for Maria will continue at Dataran Merdeka tomorrow despite the Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) barring them from doing so.- Mkini

1 comment:

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