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Maria Chin Abdullah: I believe in the power of the people  
Maria Chin Abdullah, chairwoman of the Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih), waves to the crowd during a candlelight vigil at Merdeka (Independence) square in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Monday, Nov. 28, 2016. AP/Lim Huey Teng
Thursday, 15 December, 2016 | 14:40 WIB
Maria Chin Abdullah: I believe in the power of the people  

TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - Maria Chin has led the anticorruption movement Bersih 2.0 since 2013 with the goal of improving Malaysia's electoral system, combating corruption and reforming public institutions in the country. Last month, one day before the movement's fifth rally or Bersih 5, Maria was arrested by the police. For 10 days, she was locked up in the isolation room.

Her feud with Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak in the alleged channeling of illegal funds from government-run 1 Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) has not diminished her spirit. Maria is furious at so much money missing from 1MBD. "That's the people's money," she exclaimed.

She met with Tempo reporters, Efri Ritonga, Anton Septian, Ayu Primasandi, and Gadi Makitan in Malaysia last Tuesday. Excerpt:

Tell us about your arrest. 

On November 18, the day before the rally, the police came (to Bersih 2.0's secretariat) to arrest us. All cell phones, computers and documents were seized. I was taken to Jinjang Prison while Mandeep Singh, the secretariat's manager, was taken to the police station.


The next day I was transferred to the police station. I was told that I had been accused of violating Article 124-C of Kanun Kesiksaan and that I was a threat to the parliamentary democracy. The police also used the SOSMA Act or the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act of 2012, which allows detaining a person for 48 hours without a lawyer, without a trial, and without being told of what he/she is charged with. After 48 hours, the police can extend the detention period for a maximum of 28 days.


The total number of people detained there was 16, including myself. There were students, the rally drivers, and politicians. Everyone was released within a short time, except me.


How were you treated? 

After 48 hours passed, the police arrested me for another eight days. I was put in solitary confinement with no contact with the outside world, no windows, no fan, no mattress. Just cement and a wooden board. On the fourth day, they gave me a mattress after the Suruhanjaya Human Rights people came to visit. The police also gave two sets of prisoners' clothes, but I was unable to change my underwear.


What is your legal status now? 

The police have not given me a legal status. They are still gathering witnesses. I was released from custody, but the investigation continues. After the investigation is completed, they will be able to charge me because the deadline for the 28-day investigation is December 16. (*)


Read the full interview in this week’s edition of Tempo English Magazine

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