This year has been a memorable year for Malaysians in our struggle for democracy and recognition of human rights in our country.
The 9 July rally for clean, free and fair elections was an event all generations of Malaysians will cherish in history. It was the day ordinary Malaysians showed courage and grit in opposing violence and repression by sections of riot police armed with tear-gas and water cannon.
Besides the brave leaders of the Bersih 2.0 movement led by former Bar Council president Ambiga Sreenevasan and leaders of Pakatan Rakyat and civil society groups who came out in support of the movement, ordinary Malaysians including elderly, disabled persons and youth braved tear-gas and water cannon to demand that elections be clean, free and fair.
The run-up to the 9 July rally was equally dramatic and tortuous with the unjustified arrests of Parti Sosialis Malaysia activists. The PSM 30 were initially accused of waging war against the King for no apparent reason. Six of them, all key members including Sungai Siput MP Dr. Jeyakumar Devaraj, were later detained under the Emergency Ordinance. It was perhaps too much for reasonable and fair-minded members of the public to swallow. Thankfully, the EO 6 are now free and all charges have been dropped against the PSM 30.
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We have seen many undeserved and unjustified restrictions on our right to freedom of speech under Article 10 of the Federal Constitution and Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. There has also been an increased encroachment on our right to assemble under the same provision of the Federal Constitution and Article 20 UDHR.
Since the beginning of this year such attacks on these basic human rights have been accumulating. Apart from this, the Federal Government has launched attacks on workers, migrant workers, human rights defenders, asylum seekers and refugees, aided by other parties i.e. rich multinational corporations and foreign governments.
Towards the end of the year the LGBTiQ, came under fire for organising the “Seksualiti Merdeka” celebrations, which previously had been an annual event since 2008. The LGBTiQ team had not had any trouble nor had they caused any trouble to anyone. But they were faulted this year by the police and the government – merely because S. Ambiga had been invited to officiate at the celebrations this year. That was what it looked like. And indeed, that must be the only reason for the authorities to behave in such an insane way.
The victimisation of the LGBTiQ minority is an explicit statement that the government refuses to respect human rights and thinks nothing of violations committed against innocent and vulnerable people in the the name of so-called peace and security.
The most recent attack the government has launched on the people is via the “Peaceful Assembly Bill 2011”, which was obviously devised to discourage and disallow peaceful assembly by violating our constitutional right to assemble peacefully under Article 10 of the Federal Constitution. Under this added draconian law, the police are given wide powers to block and stop any peaceful assembly of people for any ambiguous or unjustified reason. As far as many Malaysians are aware, the only armed persons present at numerous past peaceful gatherings have been the FRU and nobody else.
Laws in the past have often been selectively enforced to favour gatherings by members of the ruling party. It often seems to be the case that spontaneous gatherings by this particular group and their affiliates like Perkasa do not require official police permits.
In the face of all these moves by the powers-that-be, the fact that the rakyat still persists undeterred in their stance against corruption and human rights violation is completely admirable and praiseworthy.
Let us celebrate!
However, we have gained some ground with the Prime Minister’s promise to abolish some of the existing draconian legislations like the Internal Security Act, the Emergency laws, and the Printing Presses and Publications Act. We will not forget these promises and would demand the same of any other administration coming into government. Yet, we remain wary that all these grand pledges will remain as pledges not acted on or merely replaced or added to by more draconian legislation. Malaysia has to rehabilitate its current reputation in the international community as an undemocratic, human rights abusive country.
Still, we, the Rakyat, have something to celebrate. Let us celebrate the fact that we are maturing in our political attitudes and are clearer about what we want of any government that wins the mandate to govern us. We demand honesty, transparency, accountability and good governance, respect and protection of human rights and human dignity.
If we hold fast to this goal, Malaysia can and will become a united, humane and truly caring nation regardless of race, gender, religion, economic status, skin colour, nationality, sexual orientation or political ideology.
We, the citizens of this country, are the only hope for the future of democracy and the upholding of human rights and respect for human dignity in this homeland. We must not let down the next generation of Malaysians by our own inaction. They must inherit a more democratic, humane, tolerant and compassionate Malaysia through the efforts and struggles of all caring Malaysians.
Aliran wishes all people a “Happy International Human Rights Day.”
Aliran Executive Committee
10 December 2011
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