The defining image of Bersih 2.0

Icon of democracy: Ooi became an instant hero with thousands who took part in several rallies and gatherings in Kuala Lumpur back then for her defiant walk forward despite being sprayed with teargas and water cannons during Bersih 2.0

KUALA LUMPUR: Ordinary Malaysians, civil society groups and politicians paid tribute to Anne Ooi, better known as “Aunty Bersih” for her brave act in championing democracy during the Bersih rallies, especially the one held in 2011 when there was a standoff with the authorities who ordered the crowd to disperse.

Ooi, who is a former teacher, became an instant hero with thousands who took part in several rallies and gatherings in Kuala Lumpur back then for her defiant walk forward despite being sprayed with teargas and water cannons during Bersih 2.0 has passed away in Australia aged 78.

Videos and photos of Aunty Bersih taking part in Bersih rallies were flashed across the major newspapers, broadcast stations and social media.

It is learnt that the family is making plans to send her body to Kuala Lumpur before being laid to rest.

On her demise, Communications Minister Fahmi Fadzil shared a photo of Ooi walking with flowers in hand and drenched in chemical-laced water.“She was with her family in Australia when she passed away. I have known her for a long time, largely through her daughter, Elaine Pedley, a dancer-choreographer and close family friend,” said Fahmi.

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

“This image will forever encapsulate her indomitable and defiant spirit, in our quest for a better Malaysia,” he said, expressing his gratitude for her efforts and extending his condolences to Ooi’s family.

In a Facebook post, Ooi’s son Kevin Pedley paid tribute to his mum, saying: “It was what she waited all her life for, and knowing that gave us a sense of calm and happiness. My mom was called to the Lord yesterday, with Elaine and her family beside her and loved ones accompanying her in spirit through a video conference.”

Family and friends flooded the comment section, wishing condolences to the Pedleys for their loss.

“My thoughts are with you and your family, my dear brother, as you go through this difficult time. Please accept my heartfelt condolences. Rest in power, aunty,” said Troy Dominic Pereira.

Alex Kong wrote: “She was actually our national hero. I remembered her during the KL rally and she was so inspiring. May her soul rest in peace.”

Kevin’s post was uploaded with a photo of Ooi’s Facebook update on her birthday in 2022 sharing that she was grateful for life.

N. Sheila, who participated in two Bersih rallies, described Aunty Bersih as an energetic and brave person.

“I spoke briefly to her during the 2012 rally and she was very energetically walking despite her age and the hot weather.

“She was basically cheering me on on that long walk. ‘Don’t give up on our country... fight against corruption’ were her words to me,” said Sheila, adding that Ooi’s demise is hard to accept and a major loss to all Malaysians.

The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih) highlighted her contributions during 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 remain on the road with each other instead of heading to their hotel rooms to rest.

“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 some cardboard and sleep here, one night if you are dirty, it is okay. Sleep on the road, if you can,” she is heard saying in a video posted by The Star in 2016.

Ooi was then cheered on by fellow rallygoers.

On its official Facebook page, Bersih conveyed its deepest condolences to Ooi’s family.

“The iconic image of Aunty Bersih dressed in a bright yellow T-shirt and holding white chrysanthemums, drenched with chemical-laced water outside Hospital Tung Shin, became the defining image of the Bersih 2.0 rally.“She represented thousands, if not millions, of ordinary Malaysians 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.

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 posting a photo with her during a Bersih rally.

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

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Aunty Bersih , Fahmi Fadzil , Bersih


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