Maria Chin: Using the Flawed System to Right What's Wrong


Maria Chin: Using the Flawed System to Right What's Wrong

Electoral and institutional reforms are the twin goals sought by Maria Chin – the woman behind the Bersih rallies. She tells AWANI Review’s Zakiah Koya this is the time to cure the nation’s ills from within.

Mother-of-three Maria Chin who earned notoriety as the organiser of protests on Kuala Lumpur streets is looking to the very system she sees as flawed to put things right.

She is contesting the Petaling Jaya parliamentary seat under the PKR flag although she does not belong to any political party.

Maria first became known nationally and globally when she organised the mammoth street movement for electoral reform.  Yet, today, she is hoping that the system which she herself calls "flawed" will get her to the parliament. 

A mother of three grown-up sons, Maria knows that she is using the system she has called flawed, because she states that is where she intends to reform the electoral system.

I see myself as a voice for civil justice and democracy. It is necessary to have that in the Parliament

She believes she has the energy to be an MP because after all, she has managed to rally tens of thousands to the streets during the Bersih 4 and Bersih 5 rallies.

When asked if she is a voice of a civil rights movement or a politician now, Maria says that from the moment she accepted her candidacy, she has become a politician.

"Nevertheless, I see myself as a voice for civil justice and democracy. It is necessary to have that in the Parliament.

"I think it can't be separated - being a politician and an activist. Once I take up the candidacy, I am already a politician. If I win that seat, I am a parliamentarian. What is important is that the goal must be clear - my goal is to bring in electoral and institutional reforms of which I was talking about when I was the Bersih chair.

"These will solve the unfairness in the system, in dealing with corruption and to bring about better governance in parliament and in institutions which we hope will deliver justice but sometimes they fail us," says Maria. 

Having been raised and educated in urban Petaling Jaya, Maria says she knows the constituency very well. The main issues that she wants to tackle head on are urban poverty and issues affecting youths.

She pointed out that the problem is a big one in areas of Taman Medan and Sri Sentosa where its residents are mostly from the lower income group. Maria, who started her activism in women NGOs in the 80s, says that she has first-hand experience dealing with poverty issues during her tenure in women NGOs.

"When 2009 tsunami happened and I was still in Empower (a women NGO), we actually went up many trips to Kuala Muda to help the youths and the women. These experiences, limited though they may be, these would be my experiences," says Maria. 

Maria, a Chinese Muslim convert, whose late husband was a Malay, also ​feels strongly about racial politics.

"I will not use racial politics to answer to racial politics. In Pakatan Harapan, we are looking at wider politics than racial politics or politicising of religion.

We see beyond opposition and BN - we should combine and work together for a better Malaysia.

"It is really about looking at the system that has gone wrong and correcting the system with mistakes like abuse of power and not respecting the rule of law, while making sure that money goes to building schools and resolving unemployment.

 "That is the kind of systemic change we should be looking at for the whole of Malaysia and not certain communities, although recognising that there are some marginalised and impoverished communities that need more help. 

"It is actually through consultations and discussions that we can resolve issues of poverty. Then, there are the issues of the youths such as the dropout rate, unemployment for the young people and also entertainment. There are really not that many places they can go to in PJ to release the energy they have," said Maria.

She also listed the office space glut and the lack of public spaces. 

Stating that she is going to ensure all differences are set aside for the sake of the betterment of the people, Maria said it is time mature politics come to the fore.

"We see beyond opposition and BN - we should combine and work together for a better Malaysia.

"We are seeing single mothers who hold two or three jobs, so you do not have quality time for families. This country does not have minimum wage -  and rising prices as incomes are stagnated. Budgets are not going to where they are needed - to build more hospitals, for education and thinking of ways to provide jobs for a growing urbanisation. Urbanisation is creeping in and we do not have plans for that," said Maria, who seems to have an endless list she intends to tackle when she gets to the august house.

As for now, her main worry is taking on the task of becoming a full-time politician rather than the former Bersih chief, to hit the hustings and press the flesh, and make it to Parliament.