BERSIH Condemns Crackdown on HINDRAF Leaders and Planned Rally

Media Release
24 November 2007

The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (BERSIH) condemns the arrest of Hindu Rights Action Front (HINDRAF) leaders (two of whom were later freed on bail) under the Sedition Act and the police prohibition of the planned HINDRAF rally on Sunday. Both actions are clear violation of key civil liberties and basic freedoms guaranteed by the Federal Constitution.

BERSIH stresses that when citizens want to peacefully assemble, the police’s responsibility is to ensure order and security, and not to stop the assembly. The roadblocks set up to stop both the BERSIH rally three weeks ago and the coming HINDRAF assembly which cause massive traffic jams, inconvenience and economic losses are completely unnecessary and unjustifiable.
The Government should instead do some soul-searching to look into the causes of such intense discontent amongst marginalized Indian Malaysians. Suppressing or demonizing such discontents will only harm rather than help the nation-building process.
BERSIH’s defence of HINDRAF’s right to free speech and peaceful assembly is entirely on principled grounds. For the record, HINDRAF is not an endorsee of BERSIH and its coming rally has no connection with BERSIH. A coalition of 70 organizations from all cultural, ideological and geographical backgrounds, BERSIH champions political reform for the benefit of all Malaysians regardless of creed and class.
BERSIH believes the marginalization of communities, like the Indian working class, is largely the result of a flawed electoral process which has resulted in unresponsive and irresponsible governments at federal, state and local levels. Joining forces with other Malaysians to demand for democratization would serve their interests better than a communally-articulated cause which can be easily demonized by the state.