Aunty Bersih: I’ll walk again

In an FMT Raw interview, she calls upon Malaysians to speak up and fight against injustice.

You must come out and walk. If just Twitter and Facebook, and you have a big group, and you do not appear in yellow on a Saturday, what exactly are you doing? Im going again,with permission from my daughter. With this bill coming out, I am going out on Saturday at KLCC. I’ve been invited and would very much love to be there.

Teoh El Sen, Free Malaysia Today

She became an instant celebrity when a photograph of her – a lone figure in yellow, soaked in rain and chemical-laced water, walking in front of a row of riot police – pulled at the heartstrings of the Malaysian public.

At first, retired English teacher Annie Ooi Siew Lan, 65, was a reluctant hero of the July 9 Bersih rally. She felt too ordinary to deserve the epithets “Aunty Bersih” and “Malaysian Lady of Liberty”.

But, although she still prefers to be called just “Anne”, she has since found her voice and is beginning to accept that she has an important role to play in improving democracy in Malaysia.

“I’m not a celebrity like Tiger Woods,” she said. “Am I a Bersih hero? I don’t think so. But I know now I have things to do. I have to speak up. I have to be the voice to speak for so many who cannot speak, who do not know the situation.”

She said she would always stand up for the “underdogs”, those who, like her, are bullied by the power of the state.

In a live interview with FMT Raw yesterday, Anne spoke passionately about being spurred to speak up for others.

Often grimacing and frowning whenever she mentioned the things the government does that she did not like, Anne said she was ready to walk again, especially after reading about the Peaceful Assembly Bill.

“Now you tell me, ‘Don’t assemble.’ I’m going to assemble. If they say don’t gather, I’ll gather,” she said.

“Now with the new bill, you don’t need a permit. So what? The police can arrest anyone. They can do a lot of things if the bill is passed.”


Najib should admit his mistakes

Anne said she was ready to gather a group of like-minded people soon and see what the police would do to deny them their right to assemble peacefully.

Asked if she had hoped for a better law for freedom of assembly, she said: “Hope always runs strong in every human heart. We hope until hope dies itself. I also always hope that Najib would understand the mistakes and just admit it lah. It’s to his interest.

“I do not know much about law, but hope was there that it would come out right. But no, it was ‘tipu’ (cheating) again, nothing was right. Nothing was good about it.”

She also said it was not right for the new bill to prohibit children below 15 from participating in public protests.

“Children will be everywhere the parents are. The parents don’t want them to put their children elsewhere, when they are doing something good. They want their children to learn too.”

Anne said her hobby was “pulling grass”, singing, and dancing.

But the feisty grandmother has also worked for the welfare of the poor as well as refugees. “If I was a politician, if I could walk with beggars every day, I would do it,” she said.

However, she dismissed any possibility of her being in active politics because that would mean associating with greedy, unintelligent people who did not care about the rakyat. “I’m not going to be among that group. Thank you.”