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‘Aunty BERSIH’, iconic figure in Malaysian social movement, passes away

Malaysian activist Anne Ooi, fondly called ‘aunty BERSIH’, passed at 78. Her image, in yellow T-shirt and clutching white chrysanthemums outside Tung Shin Hospital in Kuala Lumpur, epitomized the spirit of the 2009 BERSIH rally.



KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA: Malaysian activist Anne Ooi, better known as ‘Aunty BERSIH’ within the civil society community in Malaysia, passed away on Monday (25 March) 6 pm, at the age of 78.

According to the latest Facebook post on Anne Ooi’s page, her family members shared the heartbreaking news.

The post mentioned that Ooi was admitted to the ICU on 24 March and was taken off life support at approximately 6 pm local time on Monday.

“It was the most beautiful passing of Anne on to her maker. We held her till the end. And sang and talked to her, ” the post wrote.

“It was all very sudden, as she would have wanted, to not be a burden to anyone, to be free, to go home.”

The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (BERSIH), a prominent civil society group, also confirmed the news in their latest Facebook post, extending condolences to Ooi’s family.

“She represented thousands, if not millions, of ordinary Malaysian citizens who care about our nation enough to speak up and do something when things are not right, ” the BERSIH statement wrote.

Kasthuri Patto, a former Member of Parliament for Batu Kawan and DAP deputy secretary, portrayed Anne Ooi as “a small but towering figure who made her presence known at BERSIH’s peaceful rallies through her tireless determination and conviction for a better Malaysia.”

As a former English teacher, Annie Ooi from Penang was a consistent presence at major rallies.

She bravely participated in the march for Malaysian democracy on 2 July 2009, confronting tear gas and water cannons.

Her moment in the spotlight occurred when she was captured holding a mineral water bottle and a white flower, with the Federal Reserve Unit (Malaysian riot control police) in the background.

Drenched in water, presumably from the water cannons deployed to disperse the crowd, she became an emblematic figure of resilience.

Annie Ooi faced imprisonment for her participation in the Black 505 rally protesting the general election results in 2013.

Furthermore, she was convicted under Section 143 of the Penal Code for her role in the illegal assembly during the Black 505 demonstration against the 13th general election (GE13) results in 2016.

In the 2018 interview with FMT, Anne Ooi expressed her firsthand experience of the harsh treatment of inmates during her time in jail, emphasizing the poor conditions they endured.

Despite facing imprisonment on multiple occasions, Ooi remained resolute in her determination to fight against injustice.

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