We, the undersigned civil society organisations, condemn in the strongest terms the witchhunt of Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections 2.0 (Bersih 2.0) leaders, for successfully organising the the historic Bersih 4 rally on 29-30 August, as a cynical attack on the right to dissent and on the very idea of accountable government.
The witch hunt of the two Bersih leaders — and possibly more political activists — is a cynical mockery of Article 10(1)(b) of the Federal Constitution which provides for the freedom of peaceful assembly.
The electoral lobby’s chair Maria Chin Abdullah and its Sabah vice chair Jannie Lasimbang were charged respectively on 3 November 2015 and 21 October 2015 under Section 9(5) of the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012 for failure to serve the police a 10-day notice.
When the communication between Bersih and the police not only took place but was even reported widely in the media, when the Bersih rally was amazingly peaceful despite its scale (accumulatively 500,000 participants) and its length (34 hours), these prosecutions are nothing but persecution of those who dare to exercise their constitutional freedom.
The real “crime” that Maria and Jannie committed together with 500,000 Malaysians is demanding an accountable government and believing that citizens have the right to call for a government that betrays their trust to resign.
When demanding an accountable government is a crime, Malaysia is pushed towards worsening economic lethargy and political instability.
Citizens are pushed to either give up on changes or believe that changes can never happen under peaceful means. The former response leads to brain drain and capital flight while the latter makes them susceptible to radical means.
Ironically, the witch-hunt validates the Bersih 4 rally’s demands for institutional reforms, most notably, the right to dissent.
We urge millions of Malaysians who support Bersih 2.0’s cause for democratisation to stand firm with Maria and Jannie, who are now the face of Malaysians’ moral courage and determination for change at the nation’s trying time.
For both the sanctity of the Federal Constitution and political stability, we call upon the attorney general’s chambers to come to their sense and withdraw the charges.
1. All Women Action Society (Awam)
2. Anak Muda Sarawak (AMS)
3. Angkatan Warga Aman Malaysia (WargaAman)
4. Council of Churches Malaysia (CCM)
6. Federation of Malaysian Indian Organization (Prima)
7. Green Friends Sabah
8. Himpunan Hijau
9. Institute for Development of Alternative Living, (Ideal, Sarawak)
10. Institut Rakyat
11. Islamic Renaissance Front (IRF)
12. Japan Graduates’ Association of Malaysia (Jagam)
13. Jaringan Orang Asal Semalaysia (JOAS)
14. Jawatankuasa Bertindak Kuala Lumpur Tak Nak Insinerator (KTI)
15. Jihad for Justice
16. Kajian Politik untuk Perubahan (KPRU)
17. LLG Cultural Development Centre (LLG)
18. Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture (Madpet)
19. Malaysian Indians Progressive Association (Mipas)
20. Malaysian Indian Transformation Action Team (Mitra)
21. Malaysian Physicians for Social Responsibility
22. Malaysian Youth Care Association (Prihatin)
23. Malaysian Youth & Students Democratic Movement (Dema)
24. National Indian Rights Action Team (Niat)
25. Negeri Sembilan Chinese Assembly Hall (NSCAH)
26. Oriental Hearts and Mind Study Institute (OHMSI)
27. Partners in Community Organising (Pacos Trust)
28. Perak Women for Women Society (PWW)
29. Persatuan Aliran Kesedaran Negara (Aliran)
30. Persatuan Bekas Siswazah Univesiti dan Kolej di China, Malaysia (LiuHua)
31. Persatuan Dayak Sarawak (Pedas)
32. Persatuan Kesedaran Komuniti Selangor (Empower)
33. Persatuan Masyarakat Selangor dan Wilayah Persekutuan (Permas)
34. Persatuan Rapat Malaysia (Rapat)
35. Pertubuhan IKRAM Malaysia (Ikram)
36. Projek Dialog (PD)
37. Pusat Komas
38. Research for Social Advancement (Refsa)
39. Rise of Sarawak Efforts (Rose)
40. Sabah Women’s Action-Resources Group (Sawo)
41. Sahabat Rakyat
42. Sarawak Access (Saccess)
43. SAVE Rivers (Sarawak)
44. Saya Anak Bangsa Malaysia (SABM)
45. Selangor And KL Hokkien Association Youth Section
46. Sisters in Islam (Sis)
47. Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram)
48. United Chinese School Alumni Associations of Malaysia (Xiao You Lian Zong or UCSAAM)
49. Tamil Foundation
50. Teoh Beng Hock Trust for Democracy
51. The Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall (KLSCAH)
52. Tindak Malaysia
53. We are Malaysians
54. Women Centre’s for Change (WCC), Penang
55. Women Development Organization of Malaysia, PJ Branch
56. Writers’ Alliance For Media Independence (Wami)