‘Aunty Bersih’ activist, Anne Ooi, passes away at 78

KUALA LUMPUR: Anne Ooi, known fondly to many as ‘Aunty Bersih’ for her defiant walk through tear gas and pulling an all-nighter along the roadside as she championed democracy, has passed away aged 78.

On Ooi's passing, Communications Minister Fahmi Fadzil shared a photo of Ooi walking with flowers in hand as she is seen drenched in the chemical-laced water.

"She was with her family in Australia when she passed. I have known her for a long time, largely through her daughter Elaine Pedley, a dancer-choreographer and close family friend.

"We got to know each other even more closely in the streets of Kuala Lumpur during the many gatherings (including Bersih) over the years.

Fahmi said that the image will forever encapsulate her indomitable and defiant spirit, in our quest for a better Malaysia.

“My deepest condolences to Elaine, Philip and the family. May you be granted strength and patience during these trying times. Thank you, Aunty Anne. Rest in peace,” he added.

The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih), the organisation mentioned in her iconic moniker, organised rallies in Malaysia to campaign for clean and fair elections.

Ooi was known for her zest and dedication to the cause, and was once seen urging fellow yellow-clad Bersih rally participants to stay out on the road with each other instead of heading to their hotel rooms for some shuteye.

"Do not sleep in the hotel. Do not go home to bathe. You must be here by 2am to 4am. We will lose the battle if we are not here.If we cannot see yellow then we have lost.

"Please wear your yellow clothes and just sleep here. Just find cardboard and sleep here, one night if you are dirty it is okay. Sleep on the road, you can," she is heard saying in the video posted by The Star in 2016.

Ooi is then seen being cheered on by fellow rally goers.

On its official Facebook page, Bersih announced her passing, sharing that the former English teacher has passed away.

In a statement conveying their deepest condolences to Ooi’s family, it said that she walked for Malaysian democracy on July 9, 2011 and encountered tear gas and water cannons.

"The iconic image of Aunty Bersih dressed in a bright yellow T-shirt and holding white chrysanthemums, drenched with chemical-laced water outside the Tung Shin Hospital, became the defining image of the Bersih 2 rally.

"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.

"She is an icon who will not be forgotten. Rest in peace, Aunty Bersih," it said on Tuesday (March 26).

Condolences have been pouring in with many social media users calling Ooi a true "Bersih Hero".

Some shared photos they had taken with Ooi, with Facebook user @Bz Yau sharing a photo with her during a Bersih rally, sharing that it was a photo from his album.

"Captured a photo of her last time. You are a great warrior in Malaysian history," he said.

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