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COMMENT Maria Chin Abdullah’s work rate is nothing short of amazing.

When I first joined the Bersih office in 2014, I could not comprehend how a woman more than twice my age and with three children could have so much energy.

After two years of working with Maria every day, I get it. She is driven by the knowledge that everything we do, every training we conduct, every report we write and every letter we send is moving us one step closer to seeing a more just and democratic country.

During the Bersih 5 convoy, I watched her criss-cross the country, spreading the Bersih message of electoral and institutional reforms. In one day, she could have events in three different states.

Every morning, I will check my phone and normally see hundreds of messages from Maria in various different WhatsApp groups. She would have been sending them long after I went to sleep and long before I woke up.

On Monday morning, I checked my phone, and I had this empty feeling in my stomach. Where there should have been Maria’s messages of work for the day, instead there were new groups forming for her freedom.

As hard as it has been at work this past week, I know we are doing Maria proud. She has always tried to push the staff to test themselves and work outside of their comfort zones. Her belief has always been that empowering new generations of activists and reaching out to Malaysian youth is the key to a successful democratic movement.

For me personally, her example alone has been empowering enough. Maria does not stick to her comfort zones, she will go out and do anything she thinks will help further the cause of democracy. She does not lie down and cower in the face of threats and violence, she fights harder. Most of all, she has this desire to connect with every person she meets, taking the time to understand their situation and their opinions.

One thing I know for sure. Maria’s son is right, “If you’re trying to break her will, no, you won’t”.

Maria, we promise to work as hard as you do for this country in the struggle for your release.

ZOE RANDHAWA is advocacy and education officer, Bersih 2.0 secretariat.

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