Hundreds pay last respects to Malaysian human rights activist

Hundreds pay last respects to Malaysian human rights activist
The main priest leading the prayers during Fernandez’s funeral at the Church of Divine Mercy in Shah Alam.

SHAH ALAM - Hundreds of relatives and friends of human rights activist Irene Fernandez gathered at the Church of Divine Mercy here yesterday to pay their last respects and honour the life of one of the country's most passionate human rights activists.

Fernandez died of heart failure on March 31 at age 67.

"Irene was very much a public figure but she was also the life and heart of our family. Most people say she is the 'Iron Lady' … which was true whenever she was fighting injustice and oppression.

"But inside, she had a very soft and sensitive heart," shared her husband of 35 years, Joseph Paul, at the end of the hour-and-a-half service.

With him were the couple's three children - Katrina, Tania and Camerra Jose Maliamauv.

Fernandez was a prominent advocate for the rights of migrants and women in Malaysia.

She left teaching in her early 20s to fight for social causes.

In 1991, Fernandez helped found the Kuala Lumpur-based rights organisation Tenaganita which provides legal services and conducts advocacy for migrants who are victims of abuse and trafficking, refugees and asylum seekers.

Her tireless efforts won Fernandez many awards including the Amnesty International Award, the International PEN Award, the Jonathan Mann Award, the Right Livelihood Award and the Human Rights Monitor award by the Human Rights Watch.

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