Crackdown on assembly rights detrimental to Malaysian democracy

Press Statement
4 January 2008

The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (BERSIH) regrets that the Police has yet again used the permit-for-public-gathering requirement as a way to frustrate the people’s fundamental right to assemble.

On 3 January, the police rejected an application for a permit by Gerakan Mansuhkan ISA (GMI) to hold a candlelight vigil at Dataran Merdeka on Saturday, 5 January.
The permit was not granted on the basis that GMI was not a registered organisation and that the event would cause heavy traffic. These were also some of the reasons cited when BERSIH applied for a permit for the November 10 mass gathering.
It is sad and disappointing that the police shoes not to start 2008 on a positive note by taking a brand new approach towards the matter of public assembly, as suggested by various eminent persons including the former Deputy Prime Minister Tun Musa Hitam.
A blanket crackdown on political expression and the right to assemble is unhealthy for and detrimental to Malaysian democracy.
On countless previous occasions, candlelight vigils have been monitored by the police but rarely disallowed. It is therefore shocking that a candlelight vigil to protest against unjust laws and actions by the government is now subject to harsh treatment and stern warnings by the police. This is a dangerous precedent and does not bode well for Malaysian civil society.
BERSIH urges the police to reconsider its decision.

For enquiries, contact the BERSIH Secretariat at 03-79806571, 019-2232002 or 012-2192010. Email: [email protected]