Maria Chin will only contest parliamentary seat, as Bersih 2.0 stresses it is pro-reform

Maria Chin Abdullah (centre), former chairperson of the coalition of Malaysian NGOs and activist groups known as Bersih, gestures after a press conference in Kuala Lumpur on March 6, 2018.
Maria Chin Abdullah (centre), former chairperson of the coalition of Malaysian NGOs and activist groups known as Bersih, gestures after a press conference in Kuala Lumpur on March 6, 2018.PHOTO: AFP

PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Former Bersih 2.0 chairman Maria Chin Abdullah will contest in the coming general election only if Pakatan Harapan hands her a parliamentary seat.

"If they don't give me a parliament seat, I won't stand," she said at a press conference on Tuesday (March 6) at the Coalition for Free and Fair Elections' headquarters.

Ms Chin said she hopes that by becoming a Member of Parliament she can push the reform agenda and change the narrative in Parliament with high quality debates.

"My sole purpose is to contest in a parliamentary seat, win, and push my agenda," she said. "Federal is the one that makes the decision, I need that to push my agenda into parliament."

Ms Chin added, however, that she agreed with Pakatan's manifesto.

She also maintained that she will contest as an independent Pakatan candidate and not join any of the opposition coalition's parties to ensure that she has the independence to keep to her agenda.

"Having Pakatan's platform but contesting as an independent candidate will keep me focused in pushing the reform agenda," she said, adding that she wants to avoid getting caught up in party politics.

"I should be able to put up my own position if there are certain controversial issues," she said.

In a statement, Bersih said that Ms Chin had tendered her resignation as chairman on March 4, and her last day was March 5.

"Bersih 2.0 thanks Maria for her contribution to the cause of free and fair elections over the last 10 years and her leadership since 2013," the statement said.

"Despite harassment, threats against her and her family and detention under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act (Sosma) in 2015, Maria has remained resolute in carrying forward the agenda for institutional accountability and reform."

The group's steering committee said in the statement: "We express our best wishes to Maria in her foray into politics and we are delighted that she has said she will push, through legislation and policy changes, reform of the electoral system and of mature democracy.

"We hope all candidates and parties will make explicit commitments to do so."

On Tuesday, Bersih 2.0 stressed that it is not neutral but pro-reform, addressing allegations that it was partisan following Ms Chin's decision to enter politics.

"We have always been not neutral but pro-reform. We have always been willing to work with anyone that is pro-reform," deputy chairman Shahrul Aman Mohamad Saari said at the same press conference.

He reiterated that Bersih is a non-partisan movement but that the non-governmental organisation is willing to collaborate with any party that supports the agenda for democratic reforms.

"In all our events we have invited every one. But there are some political blocs that do not want to align themselves with our reform agenda," he said, adding that Pakatan Harapan has lent their support to the NGO.

Mr Shahrul Aman will take over Ms Chin's work at Bersih. He added that nothing will change at the NGO despite her departure as the steering committee will lead the organisation to continue championing free and fair elections.