from BERSIH 2.0 GLOBAL CAMPAIGN (London chapter)
07 JULY 2011
Contact: Yolanda Augustin mobile: 07894319056 or Josef Roy mobile : 07942608054
A group of Malaysians in London will take to the streets on Saturday 9 July, calling for an end to their Government’s campaign of dirty tricks and intimidation against reform movement Bersih (which means ‘clean’ in English).
The Malaysian government has banned the ‘Coalition for Free and Fair Elections’ (known as Bersih) and their widely supported march, calling it an “evil and unlawful rally”. The mounting campaign of intimidation and arrests saw the Malaysian King (Agong), a largely symbolic presence, issue a highly unusual statement asking the Government to behave in a “…just and wise manner…” reflecting that “…we as a civilised society must resolve (problems) through consultations and not…our emotions.”
London based medical doctor Yolanda Augustin, the UK spokesperson for the group said “Following an audience with the King, Bersih accepted a compromise to hold the rally in a stadium, as the Government had initially suggested. But the Cabinet has now rejected this. The Government seems determined to force a confrontation with the people, in the face of the King’s appeal for reason. They have declared Bersih to be illegal and continue to arrest activists. How can we believe the Government’s good faith when their actions contradict it?”
Since 22 June over 230 people, including women and minors have been arrested, including lawmaker Michael Jeyakumar Devaraj a medical doctor known for his work with indigenous people and plantation workers. He remains in detention and has been denied access to lawyers, family or medical attention. Malaysian law still allows for indefinite detention without trial.
The recent actions of the government have brought stinging international criticism. A blunt three-page letter was signed by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, World Organisation Against Torture, International Federation for Human Rights and Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development. They stated that Malaysia’s use of draconian preventive detention laws was incompatible with its seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council.
The NGOs also reminded Prime Minister Najib of his pledge in 2009 to “uphold civil liberties” and “regard for fundamental rights of the people of Malaysia”. “We call on you to turn these pledges into concrete action by asking law enforcement officers to immediately cease use of all preventive detention laws, and by starting a time-bound process to repeal those laws,” the letter read.
Donna Guest of Amnesty International said: “This repression is clearly politically motivated to intimidate people from marching for electoral reform. The use of repressive laws to criminalise peaceful political activism is appalling. We have not seen such a crackdown on political activists across Malaysia in many years.”
Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch said “These arrests show the government’s fundamental disregard for the democratic process and its willingness to go to great lengths to frighten Malaysians…”
Nooraini Osman a Malaysian post-graduate politics student said: “Prime Minister Najib claims that rallies bring about a mob psychology. But instead of engaging with the issues of free and fair elections, he has handed the matter over the police, even threatening emergency powers. The Prime Minister is losing his grip on the politics of the country and is using law and order as cover. He is behaving like an old school strongman. I expected more from him, as he is keen to project the country as a stable and moderate democracy, but his actions contradict this.”
“People have been arrested for as little as wearing yellow.” [the colour of Bersih], said Yolanda Augustin. “When brave people in Kuala Lumpur are prepared to speak out for democracy, in the face of arrest for sedition and unlawful assembly, being held without charge, we need to speak out. Even if we are thousands of miles away in London.”
– ENDS –
For further information in the UK:
Contact Yolanda Augustin Mobile: 07894319056
Josef Roy Mobile : 07942608054
Email: [email protected]