A look back at the vocal reaction by individuals and groups that followed the government’s attempt to crack down on the Bersih rally.
Ex-Suhakam commissioners condemn EO
The Association for the Promotion of Human Rights (Proham) condemned the use of Emergency (Public Order and Prevention of Crime) Ordinance (EPOPO) without going through other legal channels.
“The right of citizens within a democratic society should be respected by all parties especially the state in ensuring fundamental human rights are exercised in an environment where there is collective responsibility.
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“Over the past week we have seen the attempts from various quarters to restrict democratic rights. These actions include the arrest, the banning of t-shirts, the declaration that Bersih is an illegal movement,” the group led by Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam said.
“In addition the personal attacks on Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan (Bersih Chair,) questioning her integrity and sincerity by main stream media, the reference to communist threat and violent overthrow of the government are unfounded accusations. These actions can be read as creating a situation of political tension and reducing public confidence in the way the Federal government is addressing the situation,”
“The Royal Police Commission in 2005 recommended ‘that EPOPCO be repealed because it has outlived its purpose and in some instances has facilitated the abuse of some fundamental liberties’ (page 310). The use of this law or any preventive legislation is clearly a violation of human rights”.
Four civil society organisations condemn police action
We… severely reprimand the police’s action to detain 6 Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) leaders using Emergency Ordinance (EO)…By using Emergency Ordinance which is “detention without trial” in nature, the police are obviously trying to escape from the responsibility to search for evidences as well as to run away from judicial supervision.
Similar to the infamous Internal Security Act (ISA), Emergency Ordinance is against natural principle of law, which is to preserve someone’s innocence until proven guilty…..Now, with the police using Emergency Ordinance to suppress the political figures, our nation has officially turned into a police state which is seriously against the Federal Constitution!
We strongly condemn the government’s decision to declare Bersih as an illegal organization. Home Minister, Hishammuddin Hussein has accused Bersih of intending to topplie the government. But this is a baseless accusation……Bersih is forced to go to the street after so many refusals from the Election Committee to reform the unfair and undemocratic electoral system.
We also refute the accusation that Bersih is not registered and thus illegal. Everyone is entitled to freedom of association; the government should not use the excuse of registration to deny the fundamental rights of the people.
Writers Alliancefor Media Independence(WAMI); Civil Rights Committee of KL & Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall (CRC-KLSCAH); Persatuan Prihatin Komuniti KL & Selangor; Civil Society Committee of LLG Cultural Development Centre (CSC-LLG)
Marina Mahathir: Attacks on Ambiga in bad taste
“I am very concerned and upset over the personal attacks on Ambiga. It speaks of those who are against Bersih, (and) how shallow their arguments (are).
“This reflects badly on how they’re brought up,”
Marina stressed that instead of demonising and calling people names, it would be more productive to focus on the facts and issues surrounding Bersih 2.0 and its demands.
Marina also slammed the on-going crackdown on supporters of the movement calling for free and fair elections, saying it is an act done out of fear.
“Only people who are afraid will arrest people wearing T-shirts. Ask the people, if they see Bersih on a shirt, will it make them want to riot?
“There have been worse words written on T-shirts, but none of it has made us smoke ganja or do all sorts of things… If we are really afraid of words, then we are really third world or less,” she said.
TV, radio told to demonise Bersih rally
With the Bersih 2.0 rally just around the corner, the authorities have launched a media campaign to label the rally as an illegal gathering to the extent that TV stations are required to submit daily reports detailing their news coverage on the rally.
The commission also invited representatives from 22 electronic media and telecommunications operators to attend a one-day seminar titled ‘Content Monitoring Seminar 2011’ at its auditorium in Cyberjaya.
Editors who attended the seminar told Malaysiakini that they were implicitly advised by the MCMC not to refer to the rally as “Bersih rally” but as “illegal gathering” in their news coverage and to discourage members of the public from taking part in it.
On July 9, the day of the rally, footage showing police using violence on protesters is considered taboo, the editors said.
Instead the news should highlight the difficulties and inconvenience caused by the rally to the people, as well as scenes of protesters heckling, public property being vandalised and massive traffic congestions.
Lee Way Loon
Permits for assembly unconstitutional, says lawyer
Malaysians have the right to march as the Police Act 1967 that mandates permits for public assemblies violates the constitutional right to assemble peacefully, says PKR vice-president N. Surendran.
The human rights lawyer stressed that Malaysians had the right to march in the July 9 Bersih rally, pointing out that Article 10(2)(b) of the federal constitution merely restricted that right in the interest of national security.
“When you have section 27(5) (of the Police Act) that requires permits, it doesn’t just restrict the right… it nullifies the right,” said Surendran (picture) at a workshop organised by NGO Lawyers for Liberty last night.
“Any right that can only be exercised by the permission of the state is not a right; it’s a licence, and nowhere in the federal constitution does it say that this important right is a licence,” he added.
Surendran said the right to assemble peacefully, which is guaranteed under Article 10(1)b) of the federal constitution, could be restricted by merely requiring organisers to inform authorities before their rally, as practised in England.
“The Police Act is a dwarf compared to this document,” said Surendran, holding up a copy of the federal constitution before a 50-strong audience.
“Article 4 (of the federal constitution) says that any law that contravenes the federal constitution is not valid,” he added.
Bersih rally: Najib can find solution acceptable to all
What is at stake are our basic human rights and the need to uphold our constitution, with regard to our essential freedom of assembly and speech.
Malaysians now keep asking why it is so difficult for the powers that be, to agree to give permits for peaceful marches from any quarter, to ask for free and fair elections.
While it is true that we enjoy higher standards of democracy and electoral practices than many less mature democracies, we have to honestly admit that our electoral system is not the best and actually leaves much to be desired and improved.
After all why can’t we seek to transform the electoral system to become more efficient and to serve the rakyat better, with the concept of People First and Performance Now?
How can we move more purposefully to achieve our Vision 2020 goals, to become a developed country, with all its wider prerequisites, if we cannot have even peaceful marches to protest against any abuses in our electoral system?
In any case the electoral demands are fair and reasonable.
I don’t think the Government can be against the requests for instance for clean electoral roles, the reform of postal votes, the use of indelible ink, minimum 21 days for campaigning, free and fair access to the media, strengthening the enforcement of electoral rule, the eradication of vote buying and the rejection of “dirty politics”.
Chairman Asli Centre of Public Policy Studies
Bersih rally a turning point for democracy
Is Bersih a terrorist organisation that plots to overthrow the government by violence? Is Bersih calling people to break laws and create chaos? What terrible deeds have Bersih done to cause such phobia in the authorities that they should strike at everything that moves, so to speak, that smells of Bersih?
Despite persistent requests over many years, the Election Commission and the incumbent ruling coalition Barisan Nasional have not moved even one inch towards reforming an electoral system that has been reduced to a complete farce through ever escalating vote-buying, abuse of power and massive rigging.
And when such a respectable body calls for a rally to highlight its cause to the nation, how can such a rally be taboo, and everything connected with it be decreed illegal?
Author of “The March to Putrajaya”
End mass repression of pro-reform activists
Malaysian authorities are arbitrarily arresting and detaining scores of peaceful electoral reform protesters in the worse repression of free speech and freedom of assembly in recent years, Amnesty International said today.
“The Malaysian authorities are muzzling calls for electoral reform by throwing peaceful protesters in jail,” said Donna Guest, Deputy Asia-Pacific Director at Amnesty International. “We have not seen such a crackdown on political activists across Malaysia in many years.”
People have been arrested for as little as wearing yellow (the colour of Bersih 2.0), are being held without charge, and face investigation for sedition and unlawful assembly. The government has also threatened to invoke the draconian Internal Security Act over the rally, allowing for indefinite detention without trial.
“Malaysia is undermining its claim to be a moderate democracy through this campaign of repression,” said Donna Guest.
Amnesty International is calling for Malaysia to immediately release all activists or charge them with a recognisably criminal offence, drop unfounded charges, and respect the right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.
“This repression is clearly politically motivated to intimidate people from marching for electoral reform,” said Donna Guest. “The use of repressive laws to criminalise peaceful political activism is appalling.”
Mkini: Bersih crackdown – Time for Agong to step in, says don
In light of constitutional abuses in the government crackdown against Bersih 2.0, the Agong is legally bound to step in and safeguard the rakyat’s interests, said renowned constitutional law expert Abdul Aziz Bari.
“It is not about getting political or partisan but to save the country and the constitution,” contended the International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) lecturer, who has researched and written extensively on the subject.
He explained that as “guardian of the constitution”, the king is duty-bound to protect it, as per his oath of office.
Abdul Aziz also believes the situation presents an opportunity for the king to return the spotlight to the institution of the monarchy, especially after the 2009 Perak political crisis and his own absence in 2007.
“To my mind given the nature of the problem the king should receive the memorandum himself. There is nothing in the constitution that prohibits it. Nothing political or partisan about it as claimed by the BN or police,” the law professor told Malaysiakini.
Abdul Aziz hit out at the Election Commission (EC), which is constitutionally under the purview of the king.
“The complaints (against electoral improprieties) have been one too many and have been around for far too long. It all started in 1990 with the setting up of Election Watch under the leadership of former judiciary chief Suffian Hashim.
“The problems are real and the constitution, which envisaged free and fair elections, has been undermined. Umno-BN and the EC have been dragging their feet when it comes to electoral reform. I do not think the King should listen to them,” he argued.
“Given the arbitrary arrests in Penang and elsewhere – the king and the rulers must step in. As for the use of Section 122 of the Penal Code, it is just illogical for those detained were not even armed.
“Of late there have been too many occasions where the institution of monarchy has been dragged into the controversy by Umno and the federal government. The monarchy should distance itself from the politics of the ruling party.”
More seriously, he warned against the government’s expressed intent to use the military to deal with the planned 9 July electoral reform rally – a threat that warrants the king to put his foot down, Abdul Aziz said.
“The function of the military is mainly to deal with war and not to be used against the citizens. It is there to protect the sovereignty and integrity of the nation; not to deal with the business of maintaining public order,”…