MEDIA STATEMENT (30 August 2014)
Merdeka Day is an occasion to commemorate our growth as an independent nation. Therefore, it is dismaying for the Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (BERSIH 2.0) to note the many regressions in fundamental freedoms of late, which showed we are far from attaining true independence.
The recent slew of sedition charges is a slap in the face of the progressive democratic nation we are aspiring to be. The Sedition Act is an archaic law enacted by our former colonisers for the purpose of suppressing us and preventing us from being our own masters. It is highly ironic that the progeny of our Merdeka forebears continue to use the law for the same purpose on fellow citizens!
Nothing has changed in the repressive landscape of the media. Despite the apparent freedoms afforded via the Internet, the media as a whole are still under the thumb of the Executive, thanks to the host of overhanging repressive laws ranging from the Printing Presses and Publications Act and the aforementioned Sedition Act to relatively newer ones such as the Communications and Multimedia Act.
The right to association is still fragile, with the newly formed Negara-Ku movement being investigated on its ‘legality’, much like what BERSIH 2.0 had gone through.
Custodial death remains too many and still largely unaccountable, pointing to the urgent need for the establishment of an Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC).
Urgent electoral reforms, fair delineation and the need for an independent Election Commission (EC) continued to be ignored by the powers-that-be. The overdue report of the Royal Commission of Inquiry on Illegal Immigrants in Sabah is a clear and present reminder of failed accountability on the part of the authorities and the EC.
While these are distressing conditions, signs of independence in the judiciary that affirm our constitutionally guaranteed rights, especially pertaining to freedom of expression, are heartening and most welcome.
However, we cannot afford to be complacent. What was won yesterday may be lost today and indeed has been demonstrated so.
Our biggest challenge is still citizen apathy, more so vis-a-vis the political shenanigans that abound on both sides of the divide.
But we must not lose faith and remain steadfast in our role as an awakened citizenry among a burgeoning civil society movement. We must continue to press for the independence of institutions and improvements to the systems that function as checks and balances in governance. To neglect our democratic responsibilities would mean to give up control of our public affairs – in effect, to lose our freedoms.
Thus, as we echo the shouts of “Merdeka!” at the stroke of midnight on 30 August 2014, BERSIH 2.0 calls on all Malaysians to remember that we still have a crucial role in attaining true independence.
As part of civil society, every citizen needs to be vigilant of the forces that conspire to stop us from advancing as a mature democracy.
By the next Merdeka, we want to be a more confident nation that would not be sidetracked from our goal of becoming a truly free people.
The following members of the Steering Committee of BERSIH 2.0:
Maria Chin Abdullah (Chairperson), Masjaliza Hamzah (Treasurer), Farhana Abdul Halim, Jannie Lasimbang (Sabah representative), Ahmad b. Awang Ali (Sarawak), Abd Halim b. Wan Ismail (East Peninsula), Thomas Fann (South Peninsula), Simon Lee Ying Wai (Central Peninsula) and Dato’ Dr Toh Kin Woon (North Peninsula).