Political Studies for Change (KPRU) wishes to raise our concern that democratic space in Malaysia has taken a back seat at a time when people are facing a new burden in the form of the goods and services tax (GST), starting April 1, 2015.
On March 27, 2015, on the 46th day that parliamentary opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim was imprisoned, KPRU’s collation shows at least 118 arrests made by the police.
A total of 118 Malaysians, comprising members of parliament, members of the legislative assembly, opposition politicians, academics, lawyers, activists, journalists, and others, have been arrested.
They are either detained for investigation, remanded or charged in court.
The police are using the Sedition Act, Peaceful Assembly Act, or the Penal Code for further action.
What worries KPRU is that the implementation of the GST from April 1, 2015, will burden the rakyat.
Our democracy has been stunted following the series of arrests involving as many as 118 cases and if this is not stopped immediately, the people who suffer the effects of the GST will blame the federal government for all the problems they face.
Regime change in some instances
If a government truly believes the implementation of the GST is beneficial to the people, it would not arrest critics but allow a broad democratic space to exist in an environment free from the pressures of tyranny.
In any country that has ever made changes in their tax system, such shifts have not been trivial, but history shows modifications in the tax system could lead to regime change.
This can be avoided by abolishing the implementation of the new tax system or refraining from suppressing democratic space.
KPRU believes that the current political situation suggests a scenario in which the oppressed masses – faced with a new tax, coupled with the stagnation of democratic space, will heighten their anger, targeting it against the present regime.
In the current political context, we are witnessing the attacks of former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad against Prime Minister and Finance Minister Najib Abdul Razak.
The current scenario also sees the possibility of a leader allowing the police to be used to suppress democratic space to preserve personal power, thus hindering the democratic space and riling up the people, and so putting the federal government in situations fraught with political risk, all over the interests of one individual.
List of arrests (up to March 27):
27 March 2015: PKR vice-president Rafizi Ramli arrested*
27 March 2015: six sit-in participants arrested – Teja assemblyperson Chang Lih Kang (left in pic), Simpang Pulai assemblyperson Tan Kar Hing (right in pic), and activists Chee Chu Sang, Michael Tamil AL, Gan Zhi Mou and Yong Ming Chong
26 March 2015: Universiti Malaya lecturer Khoo Ying Hooi probed
25 March 2015: IGP said the police will call in the Roketkini editor, after the DAP party organ promoted an article on Twitter which claimed that the police are Umno’s lackeys.
23 March 2015: 80 anti-GST activists – from civil society and the opposition – protest at the Royal Customs Department Complex in Kelana Jaya were arrested by police after a six-hour sit-in. Of those protesting the arrest later that night, three were hauled in in a scuffle with the cops at the Kelana Jaya police station. The next day, 29 of the anti-GST protesters, including a few Pakatan MPs, were remanded for two days at the Shah Alam police headquarters. Twenty-five protesters were eventually charged at the Petaling Jaya Sessions Court under Section 21(1)(d) the Peaceful Assembly Act and Section 447 of the Penal Code for ‘trespassing’.
23 March 2015: Three staff members from BFM radio station will be investigated under Section 298 of the Penal Code and Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act related to a BFM video content said to be insulting hudud.
May 28, 2015
For the full list, click on this link.