Some 600 people showed up last night at the third candlelight vigil here for detained activist Maria Chin Abdullah, despite threats from the authorities who consider the gatherings illegal.
The crowd, slightly smaller than the one on Tuesday night, had been forced to gather at Jalan Raja, about 20 metres away from Dataran Merdeka, after the Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) cordoned off the area and stationed several of its officers to keep Maria’s supporters off the field.
This didn’t dampen the spirits of the yellow-clad Bersih supporters, who sat on the road to listen to Opposition leaders and activists who took turns to address the crowd, keeping the night alive.
See, a businessman from Serdang who came with his wife, said the head of polls reform group Bersih 2.0 had played her part in fighting for justice, which had inspired him to join Bersih rallies.
“Tonight is our second night coming. We come here to play our part as Malaysians,” the father of two told Malay Mail Online.
“We come here because we love our country and hope we can have a better government and future. I will continue coming until Maria is released,” the 54-year-old man.
Police detained Maria on November 18, a day before the Bersih 5 rally, under Section 124C of the Penal Code that criminalises the attempt to commit activities detrimental to parliamentary democracy, and invoked the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (Sosma) for the arrest. Sosma permits the police to hold individuals for up to 28 days without trial.
Another supporter, Monahana, who hailed from Sentul, also vowed to start coming every night onwards as it was the least she could for the 60-year-old Bersih 2.0 chair.
“If she can spend inside there with that kind of condition, the least I can do is stand here tonight. I’ll try to come here for 28 days,” the 55-year-old social worker said.
“We want Maria’s children to know that their mother is not alone. Yes she’s inside there alone but we are here outside for her,” she added.
Maria, a single mother of three children, is being held in solitary confinement and has been denied a mattress.
Joanne from Yellow Warrior, a Facebook group formed to support Bersih, said she and her friends had chipped in some money to provide free mineral water during the Bersih 5 rally.
“We spent between RM5,000 and RM6,000 to buy 1,000 boxes of mineral water,” said the woman in her late 30s, pointing to boxes of mineral water for Maria’s supporters.
“Bersih doesn’t have much money. That’s why we contribute our part by providing free mineral water,” she added. “I love my country. That’s why I’m doing this, the reason I’m here.”
Thilaga and her friends meanwhile unfurled three artsy banners, inviting supporters who spent their night for some colouring.
“We are doing something that is participatory, to do things together. And art is a great way to do it.
“The message of the banners is very suiting to the time and situation right now. There is no reason for us to be bullied, intimidated, harassed and detained,” the woman in her late 20s said, explaining one banner which reads ‘Tangkap Penjenayah Bukan Buli Orang Tidak Bersalah’ [Arrest Criminals, Not Bully the Innocent].
Sariff, who works as a promoter in Klang, said he didn’t mind dropping by Dataran Merdeka after work to join other concerned Malaysians as a show of support to Maria.
“The arrest of Maria is to make people feel scared, but it will only open people’s eyes on what’s happening in our country.
“A lot of people can’t come, but their hearts are with Maria Chin,” the 36-year-old man from Gombak said.
All the interviewees declined to provide their full names to Malay Mail Online.
Civil society, the Malaysian Bar and opposition politicians have called for Maria’s release.
Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar said yesterday that the candlelight vigils that have been happening since Monday night were in violation of the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012 that requires prior notice to be served to the police.
DBKL announced Tuesday night that Dataran Merdeka would be closed in the evenings until November 29.
Source : MELATI A. JALIL@The Malay Mail Online