Stop Arrests and Intimidation against the Rally on Electoral Reforms in Malaysia
29 June 2011 4:46 am

The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) received information regarding the arrest of at least 90 campaigners nationwide since 24 June 2011 in relation to the planned mass rally called “Walk for Democracy” on 9 July 2011 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih 2.0) is comprised of Malaysian civic and human rights organisations campaigning for clean and fair elections, and aiming to independently monitor the upcoming 13th general elections in mid-2012. Bersih 2.0 plans to hold a mass rally on 9 July 2011 to demand a set of electoral reforms including fair access of all political parties to the media, reform of postal ballots, and a revision of the electoral roll to address irregularities. It is anticipated that 60,000 to 100,000 will participate in the rally.

On 27 June 2011, Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan, chairperson of Bersih 2.0, and poet Datuk A. Samad Said were summoned to the Dang Wangi police station to give a statement in relation to the Bersih 2.0 rally. Both are being investigated under Section 27(5) of the Malaysia Police Act and Section 4(1) of the Sedition Act. Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan has also received an anonymous death threat for her involvement in organizing the Bersih 2.0 rally.

On 25 June 2011, around 30 supporters of the Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM), including two minors, were arrested in Kepala Batas, Penang for distributing their election campaign flyers. All of them, except for the two minors, are being investigated under Section 122 of the Penal Code which prohibits any attempt to “wage war against Malaysia’s monarch.” Any violation against Section 122 of the Penal Code is punishable by up to life imprisonment. On the following day, 26 June 2011, seven people were arrested by police in Taman Kosas for wearing Bersih 2.0 t-shirts, and for allegedly “disrupting public order”.

The police have already announced that no gathering will be permitted on 9 July 2011 on the basis of the Malaysia Police Act Section 27 which requires organisers of public gatherings of three or more persons are obligied to seek permits before hand. This despite the clear guarantee of the Federal Constitution Article 10(1)(b) “all citizens have the right to assemble peacefully and without arms”.

The Home Affairs Minister, Mr. Hishammuddin Hussein, has repeatedly indicated that the authorities may apply the draconian Internal Security Act (ISA) to prosecute the organisers of the Bersih 2.0 mass rally as well as any other gathering on 9 July. Section 73(1) of the ISA allows the police to detain any individual for up to 60 days without a warrant, trial or access to legal counsel.

As of yesterday, the police have arrested around 90 people nationwide who were distributing political pamphlets or wearing Bersih 2.0 t-shirts for the mass rally of 9 July.

Suggested Action:

Please write letters to the Prime Minister of Malaysia, including the Malaysian Embassy in your country, to raise your deep concerns regarding the situation unfolding in Malaysia prior to 9 July “Walk for Democracy” rally. Request them to stop threats and intimidation against electoral reform campaigns and rallies in Malaysia and fully guarantee the right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly in the country.

Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib bin Tun Abdul Razak
Prime Minister of Malaysia
Main Block, Perdana Putra Building
Federal Government Administrative Centre
62502 Putrajaya , Malaysia
Tel: +60 3 8888 8000
Fax: +60 3 8888 3444
Email: ppm@pmo.gov.my

Dato’ Sri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein
Minister of Home Affairs
Blok D1 & D2, Kompleks D
Pusat Pentadbiran
Kerajaan Persekutuan
62546 Putrajaya, Malaysia
Tel: +60 3 8886 8000
Fax : +60 3 8889 1613/1610
Email: webmaster@moha.gov.my

Tan Sri Hasmy Agam
Chairperson, Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM)
Level 11, Menara TH Perdana
Jalan Sultan Ismail
50250 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Tel: +60 3 2612 5600
Fax: +60 3 2612 5620

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Sample Letter:

Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib bin Tun Abdul Razak
Prime Minister of Malaysia
Main Block, Perdana Putra Building
Federal Government Administrative Centre
62502 Putrajaya , Malaysia
Tel: +60 3 8888 8000
Fax: +60 3 8888 3444
Email: ppm@pmo.gov.my

Re: Stop Arrests and Intimidation against the Rally on Electoral Reforms in Malaysia

Your Excellency,

We are writing to condemn the arrest of at least 90 campaigners nationwide since 24 June 2011 for conducting activities in relation to the planned mass rally called “Walk for Democracy” on 9 July 2011 in Kuala Lumpur.

The arrests have been made in connection with the Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih 2.0) plans to hold a mass rally on 9 July 2011 to demand electoral reforms for the upcoming 13th General Elections to be held in mid-2012, including fair access of all political parties to the media, reform of postal ballots, and a revision of the electoral roll to address irregularities

We were also informed that two leaders of Bersih 2.0, Chairperson Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan, and poet Datuk A. Samad Said were summoned on 27 June to the Dang Wangi police station for investigation under Section 27(5) of the Malaysia Police Act and Section 4(1) of the Sedition Act. We are also alarmed that Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan has received an anonymous death threat for organizing the Bersih 2.0 rally.

On 25 June 2011, around thirty supporters of the Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM), including two minors, were arrested in Kepala Batas, Penang for distributing their election campaign fliers. All of them, except for the two minors, are being investigated under Section 122 of the Penal Code which prohibits any attempt to “wage war against Malaysia’s monarch,” which is punishable by up to life imprisonment. On the following day, 26 June 2011, seven people were arrested by police in Taman Kosas for wearing Bersih 2.0 t-shirts, and allegedly “disrupting public order”.

We are deeply troubled by the announcement that no gathering will be permitted on 9 July 2011 on the basis of the Malaysia Police Act Section 27 which requires organizers of public gatherings of three or more persons required to seek permits. This contravenes the clear guarantee of the Federal Constitution Article 10(1)(b) that “all citizens have the right to assemble peacefully and without arms”.

We are also gravely concerned over the repeated indication of the Home Affairs Minister, Mr. Hishammuddin Hussein, to use the draconian Internal Security Act (ISA) against organisers of the Bersih 2.0 mass rally as well as any other gathering on 9 July. We are aware that that the ISA Section 73(1) allows the police to detain any individual up to 60 days without a warrant or trial and also without access to legal counsel.

The Malaysian government must guarantee its citizens rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. Therefore, we strongly recommend to the Malaysian government to stop threats and intimidation, immediately release the detained campaigners and supporters, and fully protect the rights of all individuals to assemble peacefully on July 9.

Yours sincerely,