BERSIH Condemns Charges against Citizens for Petitioning to Parliamentarians

Press Release
18 January 2008

The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (BERSIH) condemns the charges against 12 of its leaders and supporters who were arrested at Parliament on 11 December 2007. BERSIH’s view is that the exercise was ‘politically motivated’ and makes a complete  mockery of the democratic process.
What kind of democratic country arrests its own citizens in order to prevent them from meeting elected parliamentarians? As Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi has always preached that the people should petition through the proper channels, what better channels are there than through Parliament?

The 12 — including prominent leaders from PAS, PKR and PSM — together with 14 others who were also arrested but were freed or had their charges dropped later on, had gone to Parliament to submit a protest note against the controversial Constitutional Amendment Bill which would effect in automatic extension of the tenure of Election Commission chief Tan Sri Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman.
Police action to “lock down” Parliament on 11 December was an outright insult to Parliament which has certain privileges. The arrest has effectively put Abdullah Badawi on par with infamous English monarch Charles I who invaded his Parliament with troops in 1642.
The police’s application for a restraining order from the courts to bar BERSIH leaders from approaching Parliament was a blatant abuse of the judiciary process.
The persecution of BERSIH activists through arrest and prosecution will only strengthen the resolve of BERSIH in pushing for political democratization.
The abuse of power by the police demonstrates an important point: there can be no clean, free and fair elections without the protection of fundamental civil liberties like freedom of speech and freedom of peaceful assembly. It also highlights and reinforces the need for an Administrative Neutrality Act to criminalize abuse of state power and political witch hunts.
Of the 12 BERSIH activists prosecuted, 10 were charged under Section 27 of the Police Act which stipulates the need for a police permit to gather in a public place.
They are PAS treasurer Dr Hatta Ramli, PAS central committee member Dr Lo’Lo’ Ghazali. PSM pro-tem chairperson Dr Nasir Hashim, PAS Youth deputy chief Ustaz Nasruddin Tantawi, PAS’ women’s wing chief Ustazah Nuridah Salleh, PKR central committee member Ang Hiok Gai, and concerned citizens Mohd Sabri Shafie, Hashim Awang, Azira Ariffin and Mohd Badillah Musa. They were allowed bail at RM1,000 each, with the hearing to take place on 23-26 June.
Another BERSIH supporter Norazimah Mohd Noor was charged under Section 504 of the Penal Code with intentionally provoking a police officer on the same day.
Earlier on, PKR’s Information Bureau chief Tian Chua had been charged for causing injury to a policeman while resisting arrest for taking part in the illegal assembly. His bail was set at RM3,000 and his case is due to be heard on 16 & 17 April.