PETALING JAYA: Like many activists, Ambiga Sreenevasan has many memories of Haris Ibrahim, a fellow lawyer turned activist, who succumbed to cancer yesterday.
Some are sweet – exchanging ideas and sharing ideals, often over a cup of coffee.
Others less so – like the time their eyes watered and their throats burned from the tear gas used during the second Bersih rally. With them were Maria Chin, who would later become Petaling Jaya MP, and national laureate A Samad Said.
And then there was the time when they were hauled to the police station for questioning.
They might have argued at times but through it all, Ambiga and Haris shared a common and unwavering love for the country.
“Haris was fighting till the end for the people and he will be remembered for his unselfish and untiring commitment to the rule of law,” she told FMT, adding that he detested racism and fought hard against it.
Meanwhile, Maria said she would always remember Haris as an extraordinary lawyer “who was willing to go the distance and take up issues without fear or favour”.
“He had always stood firm against corruption and abuse of power,” the former Bersih chairman said.
She added that his quest for justice and democracy saw him sacrifice a lot for the country, including giving up a cushy job as a lawyer.
“He would always be remembered as a friend who was generous, self-sacrificing, critical and vigilant against abuses, and for always standing up for the truth.”
Former Batu MP, Tian Chua said Haris was very vocal and blunt, and at times “even quite confrontational”.
Tian Chua, who worked with Haris on the “Anything But Umno” (ABU) movement the latter had founded, went around distributing leaflets and attended ceramahs together.
And while they also got into numerous arguments, Tian Chua said he always respected Haris as a committed activist.
“We will miss his voice. We need more like him,” the former PKR man said, when contacted.
Ambiga, Maria and Tian Chua all said that Haris would be remembered for ABU, which took off in the run-up to the 13th general election (GE13) in May 2013.
Manwhile, DAP’s Charles Santiago said without Haris the gains made by the then federal opposition in “2008 and 2013 would not have happened”, referring to DAP, PKR and PAS when they were part of the now-defunct Pakatan Rakyat coalition.
“If it’s not for the work that he did, going against Umno and former prime minister Najib Razak, Pakatan wouldn’t have come so far,” the three-term Klang MP said.
He added that as an activist, Haris always fought for the people and never vied for political positions or to be a candidate in the polls.
According to Santiago, DAP had once offered Haris the opportunity to stand under their ticket.
He also expressed hope that the government would recognise Haris’s work.