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Prison walls cannot block march towards change, says jailbound Tian Chua

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Tian Chua delivered these remarks at the Court of Appeal after withdrawing his appeal on a 2012 conviction by the Sessions Court in 2012 which senten.

This morning I have discharged my defence lawyers, and after five years of trial, I would like to take this occasion to address this honourable court.

I made this decision after long and careful consideration, and this is by no means an indication of any doubt in the capability of my lawyers. I indeed have full confidence that they would provide the most competent legal defence. I shall take this opportunity to express my upmost gratitude to my lawyers.

On 28 April 2012, I was arrested at the peaceful assembly of Bersih. And at that evening, together with some 500 people who had been arrested, I was sent to the Police Training Centre or Pusat Latihan Polis (Pulapol).

On that day, the participants of the Bersih assembly not only were hit by tear gas and water cannons, but many, including myself were slapped and physically assaulted during the process of the arrest.

Nevertheless, I was not charged for taking part in an illegal assembly. My charge was in connection with my presence in Pulapol, where I was detained that particular night. I was accused of committing an offense of trespassing in a “protected area”, namely the Pulapol.

In my opinion, it is an absurdity to penalise me for my being in the compound of the Pulapol, in a situation which I was brought in by force and against my will.

Subsequently, I was convicted by the Sessions Court on 24 January 2014, and sentenced to one-month imprisonment and RM1,000 fine.

My participation in Bersih has been part of a very long journey in the struggle for a fairer and better Malaysia.

The objective of Bersih is to call for reforms in our very skewed election system.

A truly democratic government is never allergic to public criticism. Democracy must always be tolerant to disagreements, and through this noisiness, it will progress with the process of reforms. A government with integrity must not use law enforcement agencies to clamp down on dissenting political voices.

Laws are made to protect the wellbeing of citizens and to grant the people freedom, equality and dignity. Unfortunately, these very laws have become instruments of repression and have been used to intimidate and silence people under the dark shadow of fear.

Increasingly, the abuses and blatant corruption of the regime are widely witnessed by the people. Yet the regime has survived, supported by a seriously flawed electoral system. It clearly intends to cling to power by spreading hatred and suspicion in this beloved country of ours.

I am like the millions of Malaysians out there. We long for change. For a better world where justice, liberty and fairness are upheld. Malaysians want to be free to speak up, to openly share their thoughts without fear. This is guaranteed in our Federal Constitution – all citizens have the right to be critical, to free speech, to free movement and to hold the authorities accountable for their actions.

If the price for changing this repressive and corrupt system is to go to prison, I shall say I am more than ready to accept. At the same time, I would like to emphasise that accepting my prison sentence is not an admission of wrongdoing. On the contrary, I intend to highlight the wrongs of this very government and call on the people not to be intimidated and frightened by the instruments of oppression.

Respectfully, I wish to inform this court that I withdraw my appeal.

Finally, this is my message to all Malaysians, the members of public out there: thank you for your support. Please continue the fight for justice. We shall not and must not be afraid when we are on the side of truth! Prison walls cannot block our march towards change!

Tian Chia is the member of Parliament for Batu.

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