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Thursday, 24 September 2015

Proham: the use of SOSMA to detain Datuk Khairuddin is a clear abuse of SOSMA

PROHAM is shocked that the provisions of the Security Offences ( Special Measures ) Act 2012 (SOSMA) have been used to further detain Datuk Khairuddin Abu Hassan.

SOSMA was enacted to combat the threat of terrorism in the country. At the time of passing this draconian law the government assured that the provisions of SOSMA will be used against terrorists and it will not be abused or used against political opponents.

The lodging of police reports in foreign countries by Datuk Khairuddin Abu Hassan against 1MDB, a company even though state owned cannot be a criminal act. It can neither be an act of sabotaging parliamentary democracy nor an act to topple the government.

Hence the further detention of Datuk Khairuddin under SOSMA is a clear abuse of the provisions of SOSMA.

PROHAM now calls on the Royal Malaysia Police to release Datuk Khairuddin Abu Hassan immediately as continued detention under SOSMA is unlawful'

Issued by Datuk Kuthubul Zaman Bukhari, Proham Chairman on Sept 25, 2015

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

PROHAM calls on AG to reconsider prosecuting Bilqis Hijjas

PROHAM is dismayed that Bilqis Hijjas has been charged in court under section 14 of the Minor Offences Act 1955 for insulting behaviour with intent to provoke breach of peace.

PROHAM calls upon the Hon Attorney General to reconsider the decision to prosecute Bilqis Hijjas over such trivial incident of dropping balloons which is a mere form of expression.

PROHAM also calls on the authorities to give space to the rakyat to express themselves and not to stifle dissent or difference of opinion.

Malaysia being a democratic nation should always respect the democratic and human rights of its citizens. '

Datuk Kuthubul Zaman Bukhari, Proham Chairman (Sept 24, 2015)

Dancer who dropped Bersih 4 balloons on Najib faces charges tomorrow 
Bilqis Hijjas, who dropped Bersih 4 balloons onto an event where Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak and wife were present last month, will be charged tomorrow in magistrate court for "insulting behaviour".
The dancer/performer, who is daughter of prominent architect Hijjas Kasturi, will be charged under the Minor Offences Act 1955, legal rights advocacy group Lawyers for Liberty said in a statement today.
Bilqis, 35, will be represented by lawyer Michelle Yesudas.
Electoral reform group Bersih 2.0 in a separate statement condemned the decision to prosecute Bilqis, and described it as a punishment.
“Bersih 2.0 condemns the prosecution of Bilqis as punishment of a young woman for a ridiculous offence, while the real culprits who steal the country’s wealth are let free without any risk of legal action,” Bersih 2.0, which organised the Bersih 4 rally in Kuala Lumpur on August 29 and 30, said.
On August 31, Bilqis released yellow balloons with the words “democracy”, “free media” and “justice” printed on them from level 5 of the Pavillion KL mall in Kuala Lumpur onto an event attended by Najib and his wife, Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor, on the ground floor of the shopping centre.
The balloons floated down behind the big screen television set at the event.
After the incident, Bilqis was nabbed by the mall’s auxiliary police and was later handed over to the Dang Wangi police for further action.
Bersih 2.0 chairman Maria Chin Abdullah is expected to be in court tomorrow when Bilqis is charged as a show of solidarity. – September 22, 2015.
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Thursday, 17 September 2015

Suhakam demands action against racial hatred at #Merah169 rally

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 17 ― The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) has called for action against protesters at the #Merah169 rally who had made comments promoting racial and religious hatred.
Suhakam noted that the pro-Malay demonstration yesterday had also turned rowdy when a group of protesters charged past police lines in an attempt to reach certain parts of the city centre that organisers and the police had initially agreed were prohibited.
“The Commission is also perturbed by the irresponsible and confrontational actions of several participants for inciting lawless and disorderly behaviour by flaunting racially-charged placards and for uttering slogans that promoted racial or religious hatred in our multi-religious and secular society,” Suhakam chairman Tan Sri Hasmy Agam said in a statement.
“Such behaviour, in the Commission’s opinion, constitutes the intentional provocation of violence which cannot be condoned and must be appropriately dealt with.
“The Commission reiterates that advocacy of racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence should be prohibited by law,” he added.
Malaysia does not have hate crime laws, with efforts to have the Sedition Act 1948 replaced with legislation prohibiting hate crimes and discrimination coming to naught following a backlash from conservative Malay groups.
The #Merah169 protest, where thousands of Malays rallied in the capital city yesterday, was marred by sporadic outbreaks of racism targeting the ethnic Chinese minority, with one Malay protester recorded calling a reporter “Cina gila babi” [Crazy Chinese pig] and telling her to “Balik Cina” [Go back to China].
The rally dubbed “Himpunan Rakyat Bersatu” [United People’s Rally], alternatively called “Himpunan Maruah Melayu” [Malay Dignity Rally], also saw placards with racially-tinged slogans in Malay like “Malaysia belongs to the Malays”, “Defend Malay rights”, and “Get rid of SJKC”, referring to Chinese vernacular schools.
Police were forced to briefly deploy water cannons against protesters who refused to disperse from Petaling Street, though the gathering at Padang Merbok ended peacefully.
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Saturday, 12 September 2015

We’ll keep our eyes on ‘red shirt’ rally, UN Human Rights Office says BY IDA LIM

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 11 — The United Nations (UN) Human Rights Office said today that it would monitor the mass gathering of Malays planned for September 16 in Malaysia’s national capital that has been dubbed the “red shirt” rally.
The UN Human Rights Office confirmed to Malay Mail Online that it would be following the proposed September 16 rally remotely from their regional office for South-east Asia based in Bangkok, Thailand.
“We will be particularly observing if the fundamental rights to right to peaceful assembly, association and freedom of expression are respected.
“In addition, we will also keep an eye on the response by law enforcement authorities at the rally and the conduct of the organizers,” Matilda Bogner, the regional representative of the UN Human Rights Office’s South-East Asia office told Malay Mail Online in an email.
Bogner confirmed that the UN Human Rights Office has not sent any communication regarding the September 16 rally to the Malaysian government at this point in time.
But she said that the UN Human Rights Office’s letter to Putrajaya on August 28 had already clearly outlined its position on the need to respect the right to peaceful assembly, association and freedom of expression.
The August 28 letter was sent ahead of the next day’s Bersih 4 rally for institutional reforms by Malaysians clad in yellow shirts — an event deemed by the government to be an “illegal” gathering.
The UN Human Rights Office, otherwise known as the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (UN-OHCHR), had in the August 28 letter urged Putrajaya to give the greenlight for the Bersih 4 rally.
“OHCHR urged the Government to allow the rally to proceed in line with the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly, expression and association as guaranteed by Article 10 of the Federal Constitution of Malaysia and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” she said when speaking of the letter’s contents.
“It also urged the Government to provide adequate protection to the protesters as well as to journalists and those monitoring the protest. 
“The OHCHR also urged the government to ensure that the security forces involved, including the police who have statutory powers to manage the protest, are given clear instructions not to employ force except as a last resort and only in full accordance with international law,” she added when elaborating on the letter.
The Malaysian government did not issue a reply to the August 28 letter, Bogner said, confirming that the UN Human Rights Office did not issue any further communication after the end of the 34-hour Bersih 4 rally.
Bogner said both the UN Human Rights Office and UN special rapporteurs or experts had followed the Bersih 4 rally closely.
“The OHCHR followed the rally closely, and the events surrounding the gathering. OHCHR was pleased to see the rally conclude peacefully,” she told Malay Mail Online.
Next Wednesday, a rally alternatively called Himpunan Maruah Melayu and Himpunan Rakyat Bersatu, will be held in the city centre to counter the purported Chinese domination of the Bersih 4 rally.
Police confirmed today receiving a notice from the September 16 rally organiser, a little-known Malay martial arts organisation called Persekutuan Silat Kebangsaan Malaysia (Pesaka) that is led by Senator Tan Sri Mohd Ali Mohd Rustam.
Sungai Besar Umno division chief Datuk Jamal Md Yunos who has been speaking out on the rally on behalf of the organiser, has said that over 750 Malay groups were invited to join the rally on Malaysia Day and claimed that over 30,000 individuals have pledged to show up.
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Thursday, 10 September 2015

‘Political funding reforms needed for fair elections’

KUALA LUMPUR: A coalition of 70 non-governmental organisations is urging the Government to take legislative reforms to legitimise political contributions.
Led by G25, the coalition said political funding reforms were needed to enable fair elections during national polls in 2018 and the Sarawak state election next year.
“It would also ensure that politicians can act without fear or favour and for all political parties to have equal access to acceptable financing resources.
“This is to promote an even playing field in federal and state elections,” G25 spokesman Tan Sri Mohd Sheriff Mohd Kassim told reporters here yesterday.
All 70 NGOs signed a declaration on Transparent and Accountable Political Funding as the Underlying Framework to Eliminate Corruption and Promote Clean Governance.
Mohd Sheriff said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak had acknowledged the existence of donations from foreign sources to run elections.
“His statement confirms two issues – that there is an existence of secret political funds controlled by individuals or trustees, and access to phenomenal foreign funding,” he said.
The former Finance Ministry secretary-general said while the coalition welcomed the Government’s suggestion to introduce a political parties law, it should incorporate several aspects on political financing.
“The Act should ban foreign donations as these can interfere with the autonomy and sovereignty of domestic politics.
“It should also put a limit on donations by individuals and corporate bodies as well as capping funds from anonymous donors,” he added.
The coalition included Empower, Society for the Promotion of Human Rights (Proham), Bersih 2.0, Islamic Renaissance Front, All Women’s Action Society (Awam) and Tenaganita.
Twenty leaders out of the 70 NGOs had attended the press conference to introduce the declaration.

G25, 68 NGOs join forces for reforms amid RM2.6bil scandal

A group of 69 NGOs in a joint-statement today outlined the reforms needed for political funding to promote transparency and accountability.
This is amid the presence of RM2.6 billion in Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak's personal bank accounts, which his supporters claim is not corruption but a "political donation".
The statement, titled "Declaration on transparent and accountable political funding as the underlying framework to eliminate corruption and promote clean governance" is as follows:
We, concerned citizens of Malaysia from the following NGOs and CSOs, recognise the urgent need for reforms of existing laws governing political funding and all manner of corrupt practices.
Eliminating corruption within political parties is fundamental to enable the total rejection of corrupt practices and to allow for the return of a clean government in Malaysia.
Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak has acknowledged the existence of “donations” from foreign sources to run election campaigns effectively.
Our concern with the prime minister’s statement is his acknowledgement of two issues that have long been viewed as controversial aspects of the financing of Malaysian politics: First, the existence of secret political funds controlled by individuals or trustees; and second, access to phenomenal foreign funding, which suggests illegal political financing during electoral contests that undermine the legitimacy of parties in power.
Our core concern is the need for an independent investigation into allegations of serious misappropriation of 1MDB funds.
This investigation should be completed promptly and in a transparent and accountable manner.
Meanwhile, given the statements made by the prime minister, we also believe that it is imperative to reform existing laws on key aspects of the financing of politics to reinstitute integrity in Malaysia’s electoral system.
The current mode of political funding has cascaded into pervasive rent-seeking practices within the administration, evidenced in interferences with licensing and payments for securing business approvals as well as partnerships with dormant but politically-linked partners.
Investments cannot proceed without championing by politically-connected individuals.
The mushrooming of a culture of poor accountability, lack of integrity and disrespect for the public and for voters’ expectations of probity and openness has now reached levels that are damaging to investor confidence and leading to economic decadence.
Lack of transparency and the covert nature of political contributions put corporations at a disadvantage, as they are unable to account for these expenditures on their balance sheets.
The practice by companies of using funds as CSRs (corporate social responsibility) to support political parties results in misinformation to shareholders and may be subject to abuse.
Political funding is closely related to corrupt practices. There is a need to combat corruption and other irregularities in political funding and to establish a clean government. Maqasid Shariah says that the government must be clean to earn the trust of the people.
Moderation in Islam can triumph over extremism when those in power are made accountable for their actions. Similar callings for justice, as well as accountable and trustworthy governance, are found in the teachings of other major religions.
Reforms to improve standards of governance in Malaysia are necessary because a government crippled by corruption is a danger to religion itself.
We believe that political funding reforms are direly needed to:
  • Enable fair elections in 2018;
  • Ensure politicians can act without fear and favour;
  • Empower a new breed of politicians – with fresh ideas who will also limit the incumbency of those in power – to enter the political system; and
  • Ensure all political parties have equal access to acceptable financing sources to promote an even playing field in Federal and State elections.
The end result is to return to Malaysia the kind of parliamentary democracy that is envisaged under the Federal Constitution, through fair elections which guarantee the democratic selection of the government.
We, the undersigned, urge the government to urgently follow-up on the following recommendations:
A. Undertake legislative and institutional reforms to legitimise political contributions under a transparent and accountable regime:
We welcome the long standing suggestion by the government for the introduction of a Political Parties Act (PPA).
This PPA will specify the various disclosure requirements and limits on political contributions from both public and private sources.
It will define terms such as “contribution” (which includes cash, benefits in kind such as labour-based services, as well as payments for nominal consideration such as the right to sit at a particular candidate’s dinner table) and “associated entities” which could include businesses owned by political parties and foundations set up in their names.
This PPA differs from, but will be consistent with, the existing Election Offences Act 1954 in that the PPA defines elements of legal political contributions, while the Election Offences Act legislates against illegal electoral behaviour, including money politics.
The nexus that could be drawn is that any political contribution which does not comply with the requirements of the proposed PPA could be ruled as a transgression under the Election Offences Act.
The proposed PPA should incorporate other key aspects on the financing of politics, including the following:
1. Regulations involving the different forms of elections:
i) Federal and state elections and, in future, local elections; and
ii) Internal political party elections;
2. Disclosure and reporting of sources of funds on a quarterly basis during normal times, and on a daily basis during electoral contests with such reports being made available for public scrutiny;
3. Balanced public funding of all parties in federal and state elections: To reduce reliance on private contributions, which makes political parties more susceptible to wealthy interest groups and to level the playing field for smaller parties and independent candidates, a mechanism should be instituted which provides public funding to ALL parties, regardless of whether they are in government or in the opposition. Equal and non-discriminatory funding must be given to federal and state lawmakers for policy research and constituency development work;
4. Limits on private donations that may be given by both individuals and corporate bodies, as well as a cap on funds received from anonymous donors. Capping the quantum of individual contributions mitigates the risk of policy decisions being dictated by an elite and forces parties to seek funding from a wider support base. To address potential evasion of the limit, donations to local branches of political parties should be treated as contributions to its parent entity and disclosed/capped accordingly if they exceed the applicable thresholds;
5. Donations channelled via interposing fund-raising managers or foundations also must disclose the original donors’ identities rather than be treated as a single sum. Political contributions are not recommended to be tax-deductible;
6. Ban on foreign donations as it can interfere with the autonomy and sovereignty of domestic politics and the basis on which public policies are promulgated;
7. Ban on secret political funds held by individuals or trustees;
8. Limits on expenditure during party and general elections. During federal and state elections, a cap must be placed on the gross amount of expenditure of each candidate as well as his or her party within a constituency, at state level and nationally;
9. Creation of a list of permissible and non-permissible funders/donors. The latter will include government-linked organisations and companies privy to public contracts and licences; and
10. Ban on parties holding power at federal and state levels to launch new development programmes (from the time Parliament is dissolved as well as throughout an electoral campaign), including those that involve a transfer of cash, material goods or benefits in kind that can be construed as vote-buying.
B. Undertake reforms to ensure the independence of the Election Commission as well as to empower it to investigate and prosecute breaches of regulations related to political funding:
Under the present system, the two major institutions responsible for monitoring elections and political parties are the Election Commission (EC) and the Registrar of Societies (ROS).
Political parties are regulated by the Societies Act 1966, which also oversees all welfare and social bodies.
The EC is responsible for conducting elections, keeping electoral rolls and reviewing the division of the country into parliamentary and state constituencies.
We note that, currently, the members of the EC are appointed by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, based on the recommendations of the prime minister.
The formation and running of political parties are overseen by the ROS, which falls under the jurisdiction of the minister of home affairs.
Under such a system, the executive arm of government has direct or indirect control over the governance of political parties and the running of elections, a core factor that has to be reformed.
We also note that civil society and opposition parties have persistently voiced little or no confidence in the EC’s ability to fairly re-delineate state and parliamentary constituencies as well as ensure free and fair elections.
We call for the re-constitution of the EC, as a National Election Commission (NEC), to ensure effective participation of all arms of government, with the provision that one opposition Member of Parliament must serve in this institution.
This body will be responsible for the running of elections, re-delineation exercises and the enforcement of legislation pertaining to the running of parties and elections.
This independent body will have the authority to oversee and file charges against errant politicians who violate political party, political funding and election laws.
The independent NEC must be empowered to investigate and prosecute alleged breaches in election laws, particularly illegal political contributions.
Such powers are now fragmented amongst the EC, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) and the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC), hampering speedy and efficient conduct of investigations.
With such powers, the NEC can mandate all parties and related entities to submit to it on an annual basis, all contributions received (in cash and kind) which exceed a pre-determined amount and the source(s) of these funds or benefits, be it public or private, and a detailed breakdown of expenditure towards which the contributions are utilised.
The accounts will be audited by the NEC and made public on its website.
This will enable the public to scrutinise material sources of political funding, which could enable identification of potential conflicts of interests and improves accountability of fund utilisation.
C. Undertake reforms to promote citizens’ right to information and state impartiality:
Political funding reforms are imperative to identify and prevent conflict-of-interest situations, patronage and corruption.
The financing of political parties by individuals and groups must be disclosed to ensure that they do not stand to benefit inappropriately from subsequent public decisions.
For this, freedom of information legislation must be enacted at federal and state levels.
Political funding reforms should strive to create a level playing field during electoral contests.
This is not possible without state impartiality.
For example, individuals and businesses financing opposition political parties should not find themselves being targeted by tax, regulatory or enforcement bodies for investigation.
Such acts undermine the principle of transparency, introduced to level the playing field.
Deliberate acts by public officials to selectively persecute or harass citizens or businesses on partisan grounds should be criminalised.
The signatories of this joint-statement are:
1) Angkatan Belia Islam Malaysia
2) Anak Muda Sarawak
3) Angkatan Warga Aman Malaysia
4) Baramkini
5) Bersih Sabah
6) Bersih Sydney
7) Borneo Research Institute
8) Centre to Combat Corruption and Cronyism
9) Engage
10) Federation of Malaysian Indian Organisations
11) Friends of Kota Damansara
12) G25
13) G40
14) Global Bersih
15) I am #26
16) Islamic Renaissance Front
17) Japan Graduates Association of Malaysia
18) Jaringan Orang Asli SeMalaysia
19) Jaringan Tanah Hak Adat Bangsa Asal Sarawak
20) Jawatankuasa Bertindak Kuala Lumpur Tak Nak Insinerator
21) Jihad for Justice
22) All Women's Action Society
23) Association of Women Lawyers
24) Perak Women for Women's Society
25) Persatuan Kesedaran Komuniti Selangor
26) Persatuan Sahabat Wanita Selangor
27) Sabah Women's Action Resource Group
28) Sisters in Islam
29) Tenaganita
30) Women's Aid Organisation
31) Women's Centre for Change
32) Kumpulan Aktivis Mahasiswa Independen
33) LLG Cultral Development Centre
34) Malasian Indian Progressive Association
35) Malaysian Indians Transformation Action Team
36) Malaysian Youth and Students' Democratic Movement
37) Malaysian Youth Care Association
38) Muslim Professionals Forum
39) National Indian Rights Action Team
40) Negeri Sembilan Chinese Assembly Hall
41) Oriental Hearts and Mind Study Association
42) Pahang Raub Ban Cyanide in Gold Mining Action Committee
43) People Service Organisation
44) Persatuan Aliran Kesedaran Negara
45) Persatuan Bekas Siswazah Universiti dan Koleh di China, Malaysia
46) Persatuan Kebangsaan Hak Asasi Manusia
47) Persatuan Masyarakat Selangor dan Wilayah Persekutuan
48) Persatuan Promosi Hak Asasi Manusia (PROHAM)
49) Persatuan Rapat Malaysia
50) Persatuan Siswazah Lihua KL dan Selangor
51) Pertubuhan Ikram Malaysia
52) Projek Beres
53) Projek Dialog
54) Pusat Komas
55) Research for Social Advancement
56) Sarawak Access
57) Save Rivers
58) Sabah Partners in Community Organising
59) Saya Anak Bangsa Malaysia
60) Suara Rakyat Malaysia
61) Tamil Foundation
62) The Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall
63) Tindak Malaysia
64) United Chinese School Alumni Associations of Malaysia
65) We Are Malaysians
66) Women Development Organisation of Malaysia PJ Branch
67) Writers' Alliance for Media Freedom
68) Sahabat Rakyat
69) Bersih 2.0

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Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Who else but Bersih 2.0 has been slapped with city clean-up bill? Ambiga asks Putrajaya

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 8 — Prominent lawyer and activist Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan accused the federal government of “picking” on Bersih 2.0 by forcing the polls reform group to pick up the RM65,000 tab for the capital city’s clean-up after the mammoth two-day Bersih 4 rally last month.
Ambiga, president of the National Human Rights Society (Hakam), pointed out that many other events have also been held in the city and asked if the government had ever billed their organisers for the clean-up afterwards.
“Why were they picking on Bersih? I want to know which other organisations have gotten a similar bill,” the former Bersih 2.0 chairman said during a roundtable talk here.
“I find it so churlish and petty for the government to dump a bill, just to make a point, just to needle it. I don’t know what the point is apart from being extremely difficult,” she added.
Ambiga was not alone in questioning the government action on billing Bersih 2.0.
James Nayagam, a member of the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) had earlier also asked if other event organisers had received similar clean-up bills.
Bersih 2.0 steering committee member Thomas Fann told the roundtable discussion that some 1,300 volunteers were recruited for logistics purposes during the rally, including ensuring clean streets and distributing water.
“It’s not just picking up rubbish, but sorting rubbish,” Fann said, adding that volunteers had even told rally-goers to separate the trash according to the material type into garbage bags of different colours.
They were speaking at the “Right to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly: Lessons from Bersih 4” roundtable talk, which is jointly organised by the Global Movement of Moderates (GMM) and the Association for The Promotion of Human Rights (Proham).
Yesterday, government representatives delivered the RM65,000 bill to the Bersih 2.0 group, with Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Minister Datuk Abdul Rahman Dahlan warning the Bersih 4 rally organiser to pay up.
“If Bersih refuses to pay, next time Bersih holds another illegal demonstration in Kuala Lumpur, perhaps I should dump the rubbish in front of their office” he said in a statement, saying that the RM65,000 bill will not cause a dent in the RM2.4 million fund that Bersih 2.0 had raised for the rally.
Abdul Rahman has been vocal in criticising the Bersih 4 rally organisers, accusing of the group and its supporters of dirtying and even urinating in the streets during the 34-hour civil disobedience demonstration from August 29 to 30.
Bersih 2.0 chairman Maria Chin Abdullah had previously said the group will not pay the clean-up bill because it was Kuala Lumpur City Hall’s job to clean the streets.
She had also pointed out that the group and its team of volunteers had done their best to tidy up and pick up trash after before heading home after their two-day rally ended at midnight on the eve of Merdeka Day.
After the rally, volunteers were said to have left several dozen bags of rubbish on the sidewalk of Jalan Tun Perak that were later picked up by Alam Flora staff.
The rally saw tens of thousands gather at the fringes of Dataran Merdeka throughout the weekend while hundreds remained to sleep on the streets of Kuala Lumpur overnight.
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Bersih 4 shows peaceful protests, dissent can be ‘new normal’ for Malaysia, says Umno man

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 8 — Last month’s massive Bersih 4 rally proves that dissent, even protests against the government can be held peacefully and should be accepted as mark of democracy, former Umno lawmaker Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah said today.
Saifuddin, chief executive of anti-extremism group Global Movement of Moderates (GMM), said peaceful rallies should not be seen as amounting to “treason” but as a “new normal”.
“If we can accept dissent in various forms, including peaceful assemblies including Bersih 4 as a new normal, then we don’t have to go over and again over poorly presented argumentations,” the former deputy minister of higher education said during a roundtable session here.
He noted that those who oppose peaceful rallies have come up with a number of arguments, including alleging street rallies are not a Malaysian culture and even painting rally-goers as “democrazy” instead of supporting democracy.
Saifuddin said an acceptance of dissent as a new norm in Malaysia would also mean an end to “threats and intimidation” against organisers of peaceful assemblies, as well as the use of race and religion by those opposing peaceful rallies.
“We will put a stop to some parts of the society who use the race or religious card to stop or go against such dissent and peaceful assemblies,” he added.
The “Right to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly: Lessons from Bersih 4” roundtable talk was jointly organised by the GMM and the Association for The Promotion of Human Rights (Proham).
Yesterday, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak broke his silence on the Bersih 4 rally that had called for his resignation.
He said street protests are not a Malaysian culture and labelled the participants as pro “democrazy” instead of for democracy.
The right to peaceful assembly and association is an essential part of a democratic society and process, with this right also tied to the exercise of other rights, United Nations (UN) representative Michelle Gyles-McDonnough said at the same roundtable talk today.
“So in order for us to help our citizens really maximise their fullest potential, this is important,” the UN resident representative for Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei said.
Limitations on the right to peaceful assemblies must be in line with international laws as this right is important to minority groups, she said.
The 34-hour Bersih 4 rally for institutional reforms ended peacefully in Kuala Lumpur at midnight on August 30, which the UN representative said showed a healthy democracy here.
“I have seen the acknowledgment of progressive change in the authorities’ exercise of their obligation to ensure that people can fully enjoy this right and the clear statement that it makes that the exercise of democracy is healthy and we hope it will continue in this direction,” she added.
- See more at:

Friday, 4 September 2015


By Datuk Dr Denison Jayasooria (Secretary General, Proham)

On Friday August 28, 2015 I checked into Hotel Lotus near Masjid Jamek LRT about 6pm. I had parked my car in Brickfields and took the LRT into KL city centre. Was a little embarrassed as I had not taken the LRT. I am part of the spoiled generation that drives around KL. It was a good experience and extremely convenient by LRT. 

After checking into the Lotus hotel, I then walked around the streets of KL. First to Sogo area and then to Dataran Merdeka to Bar Council, to Pasar Seni and then back to Lebuh Ampang and finally back to the hotel. The last when I did this was while doing my Form Six back in the 1970s

Saturday morning I was up early and was out on the streets by 8am joined by two others from the Proham monitoring team. We started our duty and therefore was on my rounds around Masjid Jamek area and Pasar Seni. I stayed on through whole of Saturday and Sunday and only checked out of the hotel on Merdeka day. This was a long period of observations and interactions. Oh yes, lots of walking and very good for my heath.

My role was alongside fourteen other Proham volunteers who were monitoring the Bersih 4 peaceful assembly. Proham volunteers were located at four locations on day one: Sogo, Pasar Seni, Masjid Negara & Dataran Merdeka. On day two at Dataran Merdeka.

What are some lessons and reflections over the  2 days at Bersih?

Ten key reflections as I review the event and see the future hope and prospects for Malaysia. A fuller PROHAM report will be out soon but these are some quick reflections.

First, People Power: what impressed me was that people came out in spite of the warning by both the Minister of Home Affairs and the IGP that this was an illegal assembly and that they had banned the yellow T-shirt. In the post 2008 political changes such speeches and action by authorities is clearly inconsistent with democracy and citizens’ rights. Political leaders in public office must review their positions in the light of universal human rights and consistent to global democratic practice. Declaring peaceful assemblies’ illegal needs some serious review and the Ministry of Home Affairs must abide by UDHR standards.

Second, it was a very peaceful gathering. People were very festive in their mood. They were very cheerful. There was singing and blowing of the horns and at times very musical with the chants but often deafening. I am impressed with the Bersih leadership led by Ms Maria Chin Abdullah who kept to their word of not moving into the restricted Dataran area as well as dispersing at the end. This shows that peaceful assemblies are possible.

Third, the Police Role: The Police had a hands off approach except for some limited traffic role. The two traffic Police I spoke to at Jalan Tunku Abdul Raham were very helpful directing and assisting those in vehicles. It really looked funny that the people of Bersih were free to walks around but the Police were confined into the barrier area in Dataran Merdeka area. They were behind the barriers which restricted their role over the two days.

I firmly belief that the Police need to review their role in a peaceful assembly. Our Police must also learn the lesson on how to manage this relationship with civil society and citizens. Police must continue to play their role of traffic control and security. It is also they duty to protect peaceful demonstrators. They must be the Police for all Malaysians ie neutral to political influence and firm on crime and wrong doing. In so doing they will gain the respect of the people. There are clear human rights protocols which can be observed and it is time that PDRM be seen as defenders of human rights and seen to be impartial in the execution of their public duties.

Four, the ethnic dimension & issues: There were a sizable number of Chinese at the streets but one cannot say that this was a Chinese Tsumani as there were Indians as well as a smaller number of Malays. I also saw groups of Orang Asli community. Bersih 4 is very different from the Hindraft march in 2007. Also on both nights the dominant number of speakers were from the Malay community.
While noting this we must ask the critical question why the Malays did not came like how they did in previous Bersih marches. Some have said it is due to the absence of PAS? Others indicated that the Malays were really threated by Chinese presence and yet others indicated that Bersih 4 was high jacked by DAP and their agenda. It is really unfortunate that some have turned this into a Malay verses Chinese issue when it clearly is not.

We have more questions than answers at this point. Does the small turn out of Malays mean that the majority community is not serious about fighting corruption? It is important to note that the call of Bersih 4 was not on ethnic issues like Chinese schools or discrimination but on fundamental governance issues pertaining to anti-corruption.

The Bersih and civil society movement has to learn a lesson that it must win the hearts and minds of the majority Malay community to effect change. They can undertake this as the major task to reach out to both the rural Malays and natives of Sabah and Sarawak. The middle class movement must convince the bottom 40 the implications of corruption on their lives.

Five, the messageAnti corruption & call for public accountability: This is a call for good governance and transparency. There was a strong expression of unhappiness with the leadership of the Prime Minister especially in the handling of IMDB and the funds in his personal account. Barisan supporters will be unhappy with this call but the popularity of the PM was really down and the call for his resignation was central to the Bersih 4 event. This is real wake up call for the PM and team as this is not an end but the beginning of two year campaign for change towards greater compliance to democracy, human rights and good governance.

Six, Acts of Patriotism - Being there for two days I witnessed that while there were many Chinese the event was presented as a national patriotic event contrary to the views of some political leaders.The reactions from the ruling elites have been about the numbers who gathered? Was translated into a Malay- Chinese confrontation, between legal and illegal but they have missed the point that in the spirit of Merdeka - the Bersih rally was about enhancing the freedoms of all Malaysians. The singing of the Negaraku, flying the national flag and conducting the public event in Malay is reflective that even within a majority Chinese crowd these national symbols are their symbols as they themselves Malaysians.

Seven, the Mahathir moment:  The visit of Tun Mahathir on two occasions is very significant. Tun has been viewed by many within the civil society movement very negative feedback due to the Operations Lalang and other elements in the suppression of human rights. However Dr M’s presence and his recognition of people power is reflective of the changing mood for greater democratic space. Personally I think this is one of the major achievements of Bersih 4 to have Tun M visit. Unfortunately I missed both occasions when he came but am impressed that he did come. He braved the negative criticism of the ruling authorities.  It is hoped that Tun M will not just campaign for change of PM but also institutional reform.

Eigh, the visible expressions of religious prayers. This is significant as there were prayers by the Muslim groups out in the open and in the company of many Chinese. There were special prayers at the Catholic Church. These are very positive signs as the people recognised the diversity and respected it. The availability of places of worship as resting places is also significant. However I was told in some cases the place was not open in the night for people to speech or rest. This is unfortunate.

Nine, Business prospered. Some informal sector folks selling drinks by the road made some quick money. They were the entrepreneurs on the streets who capitalised the occasion. All of these were Malay petty traders and they saw the opportunity. Likewise all the restaurants made good money during this period and in the case of some they rang out of all the cooking materials.

Ten, cleaning up. One unique dimension of Bersih 4 was the volunteers clearing up the rubbish by a group of well minded Malaysian citizens. While they were committed for greater transparency in governance, their commitment to cleaning the roads clean is amazing. All the workers are volunteers and they gave dignity to the City Hall road sweepers.

In the post Bersih4 phase, the Cabinet and Parliament must review the position of democracy, human rights and good governance in Malaysia. The Bersih4 demands must be studied and the key relevant agencies must have dialogue sessions to address their concerns for the nation.

There must be institutional reforms and civil society must be invited to play a constructive role. The public sector must view all Malaysians as integral for national development. The role of civil society must be recognised as a partner in development and voice of dissent must be give the democratic space. The relevant authorities must see Bersih4 as a constructive movement. Failure to do this will result in further civil society action for the betterment of the nation.