As you may know, Malaysia has only had one ruling coalition (Barisan National or the National Front) in government for the past 54 years and the Malaysian people continue to find their civil liberties and basic human rights curtailed on a daily basis. Despite the Malaysian government working hard to sell Malaysia as a paradise holiday destination, its dismal human rights record leaves much to be desired. Ordinary Malaysians face the stark realities of indefinite detention without trial (under the Internal Security Act), institutionalised racism and curtailments to their freedom of assembly, expression and association on a daily basis. Corruption, a lack of government accountability and transparency continue to be seen as real problems by many Malaysians.
One of the biggest threats to developing a mature democracy in Malaysia is the impediments to free and fair elections. Malaysia’s elections are frequently marred by gerrymandering, money politics, phantom voters, voter buying, rigging and various other fraudulent practises. Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak has in two recent by-elections been caught on video offering millions of ringgit to voters in exchange for their votes. In 2005, a NGO coalition known as BERSIH (meaning CLEAN in Malay) was formed. BERSIH started out as the Joint Action Committee for Electoral Reform, and the coalition’s objective was to push for a thorough reform of the electoral process in Malaysia. In November 2007, BERSIH launched a large scale demonstration with over 60,000 Malaysians taking to the streets to call for electoral reform and free and fair elections.
Many predict that Malaysia’s 13th General Election will take place in the next few months. In the lead up to this, BERSIH has launched Bersih 2.0, an international campaign with rallies and walks taking place all over the world on Saturday the 9th of July 2011.
Unfortunately in Malaysia, organisations such as right wing group Perkasa have come out to voice opposition to the peaceful rally and threatened clashes and potential racial violence if the rally goes ahead. Bersih Coalition chairperson Dato Ambiga Sreenevasan has faced sinister death threats and has been told to call the rally off. In its usual high handed manner, we saw the arrest of 60 Bersih activists over the weekend and a police demand for Ambiga Sreenavasan (who apart from being Bersih Chairwoman is also a leading human rights activist and lawyer and ex-Bar Council President) attend a police station in KL for questioning. The government is now claiming that Bersih 2.0 is an illegal assembly, refusing to recognise the legitimate right of its citizens to peaceful protest. They are also making wild allegations that some of the grass roots activists are attempting to ‘revive communism’. There is a real concern that the government and right wing groups such as PERKASA and PERKIDA might attempt to orchestrate violence at the peaceful rally and use it as an opportunity to arrest many human rights activists and opposition leaders under Malaysia’s infamous Internal Security Act that allows for indefinite detention without trial. Further coverage on the arrests are listed below.
We will be organising a solidarity walk in London on the same day, 9th July 2011 between 12-2pm. As part of the walk, we will be hand delivering this memorandum to the e UK Commonwealth and Foreign Office, Commonwealth Human Rights Department and the UK Parliamentary Working Group on Malaysia with further briefings planned for the week after.
The reason for this e-mail is to inform your media organization so that you would have the opportunity to cover this rare event happening in London, where Malaysians of all ages and professions take to the streets to show their concern for the electoral system and state of democracy back home.
Human Rights Watch has also strongly condemned the ongoing crackdown on civil liberties in Malaysia as detailed below http://www.hrw.org/node/100131
If you would like to know more about the event you can visit:
a) Bersih UK 2.0 Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Bersih-20-UK-Walk/111909382231134?sk=info
b) Bersih Global 2.0 Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Global-Bersih-20/182539641800071
c) Bersih 2.0 Website: www. Bersih.org
In addition, we would like to invite your media organisation to cover an open dialogue by t he Malaysian Opposition Leader, Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim at Holiday Villa Hotel, 37 Leinster Gardens, London, W2 3AR; on the 3rd of July 2011 from 5pm to 7pm. The dialogue will be on ‘Reforming Malaysia’s Future: Pakatan Rakyat’s GE13 strategy for social, political and economic transformation.
We look forward to hearing from you and please contact us if you have any further enquiries.
On behalf of the Bersih 2.0 UK Solidarity Network