From activism to politics
Rather than dwell on the difficulties she had endured, the first time MP is focused on improving housing, transport and medical facilities for her constituents in Petaling Jaya.
WHEN one thinks of Maria Chin Abdullah, they think of Bersih 2.0 – The Coalition of Clean and Fair elections – or political activism.
Malaysians often forget that the now Member of Parliament of Petaling Jaya is a mother too. Of course, this doesn’t define her, but it’s what makes her relatable to many.
She is an Independent MP (though she contested under the PKR banner) who still, maternally, reminds residents to walk carefully along the pathway or to beware of tripping over wires. But, the warmth and ease that endears Maria to her constituents belie an immense strength and conviction.
Not many can imagine being detained under the Security Offences, Special Measures Act (SOSMA) – an act introduced by former Prime Minister Najib Razak in 2012. In 2016, the former chairperson of Bersih 2.0 was arrested for 11 days, allegedly because its activities were linked to terrorism. The first-time MP recounts her experience of interrogation and solitary confinement matter-of-factly.
“Interrogation was intense and daily. I was taken into a room with no windows, nothing. Lights were on 24 hours, the aircond shoots at you as you bathe – so it is really very cold. It felt like just an inconvenience-lah”
As she endured this, support for her release was building up outside – championed by other prominent activists, but also her three sons.
“What kept me going was all of the people who came out to support me. It was amazing and I did not expect that. Especially, my sons who had never spoken to thousands of people but it was a good experience for them as they had to research and were essentially politicised over 11 days.”
At Maria’s core is the belief that good governance can create positive change for the community. This trait was perhaps inherited from her father, who was also a long-serving civil servant and (ironically) staunch supporter of the former government, Barisan Nasional.
Her dedication to governance even extends to her sole hobby outside of work, reading. Her favourite books are on public discourse: “I like to read about how people view politics in Malaysia.”
She concedes that the transition from social activist to MP was not an easy one, especially for a woman. But this has not dissuaded her from pressing on: after all she
Giving back: The first time MP is excited to serve her constituency especially as she herself is a PJ girl. - Photos by JOE KIT YONG/KRA GROUP
Going forward: Her goal is to focus on improving housing, transport and medical facilities for her constituents.
Strong conviction: At Maria’s core is the belief that good governance can create positive change for the community.
Long road to parliament: The 62-year-old concedes that the transition from social activist to MP was not an easy one, especially for a woman.
A mother first: The activist turned politician did not expect her sons to speak in front of a thousand people, but she’s happy that they are learning about her work.
Big following: Maria Chin Abdullah was amazed by the support for her release – championed by thousands including other prominent activists and her three sons.