‘Kita semua Maria’: 4,000 march to Parliament; 40,000 sign petition

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Women at a Free Maria march in 2016 - Women played a crucial role in bringing about political change

Some 4,000 protesters, mainly women, gathered in Padang Merbok in solidarity with detained Bersih leader Maria Chin Abdullah and then marched to Parliament to call for her release.

Civil society activist Maria’s arrest without trial under the draconian security law Sosma has certainly shaken up many Malaysians.

Women gather at Padang Merbok ahead of a march to Parliament
Women gather at Padang Merbok ahead of a march to Parliament

The marchers gathered at Padang Merbok at around 10am. One of them is K, attending a protest rally for the first time in her life. “I made a few new friends here. Many of the women have taken leave from their usual work to be here.”

Women, along with a few men, march to Parliament calling for Maria's release
Women, along with a few men, march to Parliament calling for Maria’s release

Among those present in the ethnically diverse crowd were Ambiga Sreenevasan, Ivy Josiah and Pak Samad.

Most wore “Bebas Maria” yellow T-shirts with purple ribbons or purple T-shirts with yellow ribbons – yellow being the colour for Bersih while purple symbolised the campaign to free Maria.

Someone asking participants to put their names on a list said 2,800 had done so already. But many others said they had not yet signed.

As they made their way to Parliament, an eyewitness at the scene reported: “The police appear to be assisting the marchers while Bersih also has its own security team at the site. The crowd is now singing ‘Bebas Maria!'”

One participant said the police on the ground appeared generally “friendly”.

One protester was spotted carrying a placard which read “Kita semua Maria Chin!” (We are all Maria Chin!), which was a recurrent theme throughout the morning. Women greeted one another with high-fives: “I am Maria!” they introduced themselves.

free-maria-protester-holding-up-a-placard-23-nov-2016

At Parliament, only a few women were allowed into hand in their memorandum, which was finally received by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Nancy Shukri.

READ MORE:  Giant leap for rights of accused persons and in the quest for legal, institutional reforms

Meanwhile, an online petition saw its number of signatures almost double overnight to reach close to 40,000.

Malaysia’s largest circulating English-language daily, theSun, added its voice to the public clamour for Maria to be released with a banner headline this morning:

thesun-headline-free-maria-23-nov-2016

Are the winds of change blowing?

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Gallyta Nur
Gallyta Nur
24 Nov 2016 9.13am

Free Maria Now

Zambri Khadir
23 Nov 2016 11.20am

i love u. All women coz my mum is a woman, my wife ia a woman and my daughter will become a woman.