KUALA LUMPUR: Fresh from the unprecedented success of Bersih 4’s 34-hour long rally held just over a week ago, electoral reforms activist Maria Chin Abdullah has declared it may not be the last, reports Singapore’s Straits Times.
She says that there may be two very different reasons why another rally will yet take place. “The first is (in) celebration that we actually got the reforms.”
“If we do not have the reforms, there may be five, six, seven, eight or nine (more),” she warned.
Maria is not at all a “firebrand activist or politician,” the Straits Times notes, but more of a “kindly auntie.”
Taking over in 2013 from former Malaysian Bar president Ambiga Sreenevasan as head of the Bersih 2.0, a coalition of 84 NGOs, Maria has seen the watchdog’s highly successful first-ever overnight rally thrust her into the spotlight both on the national and international stages.
“She is now at the forefront of a movement to unseat Najib Razak,” the Straits Times notes, “whom critics accuse of falling foul of electoral rules after he received US$700 million in his private bank accounts, money that the government claims is ‘political funding.’”
Bersih 2.0, Chin tells the Straits Times, is politically neutral, its focus being to “fix the system.”
Politicians on both sides of the divide will have their own agenda, she says. “At the end of the day, we want reforms.”
Support for the movement has grown. Some observers claim that up to half a million Malaysians attended the rally over two days. It collected nearly RM2.5 million in donations and from the sale of 35,000 of its now-famous yellow tee shirts, three times more than for its last rally in 2012.
“The donation is reflective of the public’s support for us and our cause,” Chin beams.
Apart from election reform, Maria also champions women’s causes, a passion which she shared with her late husband, Yunus Ali, who passed away in 2010.
“We had a lot in common, especially over what was happening in the country,” she said recalling the time she met him in the late 1980s. “He was interested in women’s rights, which was quite rare then.” They married in 1993 and have three children.
Chin helped set up the All Women’s Action Society in 1985 and is executive director of another, Empower.