SHRINKING DEMOCRATIC SPACE IN SOUTH EAST ASIA:
A CRITICAL ANALYSIS AND CALL FOR SOLIDARITY
Regional & Laureates Workshops, 19-21 October 2016, Kuala Lumpur
The 2016 Gwangju Prize for Human Rights Committee has chosen BERSIH 2.0 (Gabungan Pilihanraya Bersih dan Adil, in Bahasa Malaysia), as the co- recipient of the Prize. The other recipient is Nguyen Dan Que, a Vietnamese pro-democracy activist in Saigon.
The BERSIH 2.0 Chairperson, Ms Maria Chin Abdullah, was prevented from leaving the country to receive the GPHR Award in April 2016. We are pleased with the opportunity to present the award to BERSIH 2.0 in Malaysia today.
BERSIH 2.0 has been an example of strength for the country in the face of mounting challenges from the state. For the first time ever, BERSIH 2.0 gave vibrancy to electoral reform and made it a national agenda for change with its eight demands.
This brought them together on the streets to unite for a common cause – free and fair elections. Through mass rallies, it raised political issues and contributed to narrowing gaps in culture, religion, and between ethnic groups. In addition, the rally had raised the Malaysian citizens’ awareness to the irregularities and controversies in the electoral system and gave them hope to unite the nation.
The global campaign started by overseas Malaysians saw the formation of GLOBAL BERSIH and support had been tremendous at every BERSIH rally. It now boasts a network of 85 cities and has recently registered itself to continue with the international advocacy work with overseas Malaysians. In June 2015, Global BERSIH will make its first oral intervention at the UN Universal Periodic Review in Geneva and will present the state of democracy in Malaysia to UN mandate holders.
The Committee found that the value of human rights and peace were realized by BERSIH 2.0. We highly praised Dr. Que’s achievements even after horrific imprisonments that inspired other Asian regions. Furthermore, the Committee reached an agreement to select BERSIH 2.0 as co-winner with Dr. Que, expecting them to band together with us and promote human rights and peace in Asia regions
The May 18 Memorial Foundation firmly believes that today’s decision will deepen solidarity and cooperation in Asian regions and give us a great opportunity to promote human rights and peace.