URGENT APPEAL: 1 July 2011
SUARAM condemns the on-going campaign of intimidation and harassment of human rights defenders by United Malay National Organisation (UMNO) linked organisations and individuals. In the space of less than a week, more than 100 individuals have either been arrested or ‘detained for questioning’, peaceful gatherings have been dispersed, yellow t-shirts have been ‘outlawed’, and threats of violence have been uttered; all because the Coalition for Free and Fair Elections (Bersih 2.0) has called for a mass rally on 9 July to demand electoral reforms. This intimidation campaign appears to have the tacit approval of the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) government, as seen in incidents where the Royal Malaysian Police (RMP) allowed thugs to intimidate and harass peaceful gatherings.
Collusion and Tacit Approval?
Several incidents over the past few days point to collusion between state institutions and UMNO to intimidate human rights defenders and the general public from participating in the Bersih 2.0 rally.
27 June
The media reported that UMNO youth members had gathered late at night and threatened to burn down the Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) headquarters. 300 individuals wearing ‘Patriot’ t-shirts and waving UMNO flags demanded that PKR withdraw its support for the Bersih 2.0 rally. Threats were also made against Anwar Ibrahim (PKR’s de facto leader) and S. Ambiga (Bersih 2.0 steering committee member). No action was taken by the police despite there being a police station just a few doors down the road from the party headquarters.
28 June
About 40 Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) supporters were subjected to taunts and verbal abuse from a group of 100 individuals outside the Kepala Batas police station in Pulau Pinang around 9pm.[1] The supporters included families of PSM members who had been remanded for “waging war” against the Agong. The PSM members had been on a roadshow to expose the corruption of the BN government and also to drum up support for the Bersih 2.0 rally.
The 100-strong group identified themselves as ‘residents’ of the area, but local eyewitnesses have identified them as UMNO members. Media reports indicate that the police did nothing to protect the PSM supporters, in addition to denying the families visitation rights. The PSM supporters were finally forced to seek shelter at a Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS) markas when the situation became tense.
29 June
Bersih 2.0 Press Conference Disrupted
A Bersih 2.0 press conference conducted near the Pulau Pinang state police headquarters was interrupted by several members from the Suara Anak-Anak Mamak Pulau Pinang, led by its chief, Mohamed Ghani Abd Jiman.[2] The group hurled abuses at members of the civil society coalition, including former state executive councillor Dr Toh Kin Woon. Some of the abuses, as reported by the media were “Go back to your country if you want to complain”, “Don’t eat shit eat rice”, “You seem old and about to die, go home” and “We are here to protect the law and order, and sovereignty of the country”. Police initially did nothing to defuse the situation until George Town police chief ACP Gan Kong Meng intervened much later and asked both parties to leave the area. Mohamed Ghani and his group continued to harass when Dr Toh tried to continue his press conference elsewhere. Earlier, Mohamed Ghani’s group had scared off a Bersih 2.0 activist as she was distributing leaflets. She was forced to leave the area, fearing for her safety.
Bersih 2.0 Secretariat Office Raided
Police raided the offices of Persatuan Kesedaran Komuniti Selangor (Empower), seizing Bersih 2.0 related material, which included t-shirts and leaflets, and also arrested 7 individuals for their part in organising an “illegal rally”. As the raid was conducted without a warrant, the Bersih 2.0 activists did not allow the police to enter the building. The activists finally allowed the police to enter after police officers threatened to force their way in. After being detained for 8 hours, all were eventually released on police bail and will have to report to the district police headquarters on 6 July.
SUARAM is appalled by the arrests and the on-going crackdown on freedom of expression, a fundamental right which is guaranteed under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Federal Constitution of Malaysia.
SUARAM is also extremely disturbed by the lack of civil engagement on the part of the authorities. Very little has been said or done to address the core issue, which is the need for electoral reform to help provide a level playing field for all parties. Instead, the mass media and other government institutions are continually confusing civil society demands with a ‘hidden opposition agenda’. Ministers and supposedly independents institutions such as the Election Commission are going out of their way to paint Bersih 2.0 as ‘troublemakers’.
SUARAM is also appalled by the attitude shown by the Police in its practice of selective persecution, only targeting those who are in opposition to their political masters. This is unbecoming of a law enforcement agency that is supposed to serve all and protect all, without regard for political affiliations.
SUARAM demands that the government stop this campaign of intimidation against human rights defenders and allow them to continue to exercise their right to freedom of expression.
Released By,
Hasbeemasputra Abu Bakar
Urgent action needed:
Please write protest letters to the government and the police to express your strongest condemnation of the arrests and the on-going campaign of intimidation against human rights defenders and ordinary citizens. Please also demand the Malaysian government to allow Malaysian citizens to practice their freedom of expression and assembly as stated under Article 10 of the Federal Constitution.
Please call and/or send your protest letters to:
1. Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib bin Tun Abdul Razak,
Prime Minister of Malaysia,
Prime Minister’s Office,
Main Block, Perdana Putra Building ,
Federal Government Administrative Centre,
62502 Putrajaya , MALAYSIA
Tel: 603-8888 8000
Fax: 603-8888 3444
E-Mail: [email protected]
2. Inspector-General of Police
Tan Sri Ismail Omar
Ibu Pejabat Polis Diraja Malaysia,
50560 Bukit Aman,
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Tel: +603-2262 6015
Fax: +603-2272 5613
E-mail: [email protected]
[Letterhead of your organisation]
Inspector-General of Police
Tan Sri Ismail Omar,
Ibu Pejabat Polis Diraja Malaysia,
50560 Bukit Aman,
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Tel: +603 2262 6015
Fax: +603 2272 5613
Dear Sir,
We are writing to you to express our outrage and our strongest condemnation over the on-going campaign of intimidation against human rights defenders and ordinary citizens who wish to exercise their rights to freedom of expression and assembly.
We are appalled by the police’s latest actions in arresting and detaining anyone apparently supporting Bersih 2.0. We view this as yet another attempt to intimidate Malaysian citizens from exercising their freedom to express their views. We condemn the actions of the police, who are seemingly practising selective prosecution in the discharge of their duties.
We would like to remind you that freedom of expression and assembly is guaranteed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as well as the Federal Constitution of Malaysia.
Yours sincerely,
[1] ‘Kepala Batas residents’ heckle PSM supporters
[2] Anak Mamak disrupts press meet, rains abuses