MEDIA STATEMENT (24 OCTOBER 2017): Peaceful Assembly is the Right of the Rakyat, Not a Threat To National Security

BERSIH 2.0 stands firm that national security laws should not be used as an excuse to restrict the rights of the Rakyat in exercising their Freedoms of Expression, Movement, and Peaceful Assembly. This follows a comment by the PERKASA President Ibrahim Ali on how ISA would have prevented Malaysians of Chinese ethnicity from attending Bersih rallies.
“ISA is a draconian law permitting arbitrary detention in alleged cases involving national security. It is shocking that Ibrahim Ali feels that this law would apply to, or intimidate the people who gathered peacefully at Bersih’s rallies, especially when he had a taste of ISA under Operasi Lalang. In any vibrant democracy, there is no place for ISA and/or laws that allow for detention without trial. They must be abolished,” says Bersih chairperson Maria Chin Abdullah.
In 2012, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak abolished the Act amidst a growing international movement calling for an end to ISA, but replaced it with two new laws to prevent subversive elements as well as fighting organised terrorism and crime, in order to safeguard peace and public order: Special Offences (Special Measures) Act (SOSMA) and Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA). Unsurprisingly, SOSMA and POTA both allow for arbitrary detention, while POTA and POCA (Prevention of Crime Act) allow detention without trial, above granting discretionary powers to the police.
Today, draconian national security laws such as SOSMA, POTA, POCA, and absolute powers to the prime minister under the National Security Council, are arbitrary tools at the government’s disposal.
ISA was purportedly enacted in 1960 in order to secure peace and order amidst the communist threat at the time. Despite such claims, ISA has been used as a political tool to silence activists and opposition members.
In November 2016, Maria Chin Abdullah became the first activist to be detained under SOSMA pending investigation under Section 124C of the Penal Code that prohibits the attempt to commit activities detrimental to parliamentary democracy.
Issued by:
Bersih 2.0 Steering Committee