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PSPD    People's Solidarity for Participatory Democracy

  • Int. Solidarity
  • 2011.07.13
  • 3180
SDMA* Condemn Bersih 2.0 Crackdown in Malaysia


More than 1500 Arrested in Malaysia’s Brutal Crackdown on Bersih 2.0 Rally.

SDMA (Solidarity for Democratization Movements in Asia) as a network of Asian civil society organizations supporting an open and transparent democratization process in Asian countries strongly condemns the brutal July 9 crackdown by the Malaysian government on the Bersih 2.0 rally in Kuala Lumpur calling for electoral reforms in Malaysia.

During Saturday’s rally the Malaysian police employed tear gas, batons and water canons laced with chemicals against the thousands of peaceful demonstrators attending the rally. Among the injured was opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim, who suffered injury to his head and knees. Opposition MP Khalid Samad was reportedly hit by a tear gas canister in the head. We express our alarm that alleged police violence against the protestors included deliberately firing tear gas canisters into the crowd injuring many. Protestors were also reportedly kicked and manhandled by police. We demand that police abuses using excessive violence against peaceful protestors must be properly investigated by the authorities and the perpetrators held accountable.

More than 1500 people, including 16 minors were arrested during Saturday’s rally following on from ongoing arbitrary detentions and arrests of Bersih 2.0 members since June 26. Among those detained during Saturday’s rally are prominent women’s rights activist Maria Chin Abdullah, who is also a committee member of Bersih 2.0 and several opposition members of parliament from various parties. We call on the Malaysian Prime Minister to immediately release all those being detained for peaceful Bersih-related activities, to rescind the decision to declare Bersih an illegal organization and to stop arresting peaceful political activists. We express our serious concern that the basic rights of detainees in police lock ups must be respected to include providing detainees access to lawyers and family, basic items including water and medication and to be free from solitary confinement, torture and intensive interrogation.

Mr Yap Swee Seng, Executive Director of FORUM-ASIA, SDMA’s partner organization in Thailand, was among those on a list of 91 human rights activists who were forbidden in advance by the Malaysia authorities from travelling to attend the rally. Bersih 2.0 is an umbrella grouping of civil society organizations started in 2005 as the Joint Action Committee for Electoral Reform. Its objective is to push for a thorough reform of the electoral process in Malaysia – “BERSIH” is the Malay word for “CLEAN”.

In the lead-up to the rally over 150 people have been arrested and detained for wearing Bersih 2.0 t-shirts or distributing campaign material calling for electoral reforms. In addition, six members of Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) arrested on June 26 also remain arbitrarily detained under Malaysia’s preventative detention laws. These and other Emergency Ordinances which violate fundamental rights should be repealed as called for by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions in its June 2010 visit to Malaysia and the OHCHR July 5 statement on the Bersih crackdown.

We urge the Malaysian government not to shut down space for its citizens to freely exercise their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, which are essential components for a healthy democracy and condemn the July 9 crackdown which was an assault on democratic principles and Malaysian peoples fundamental human rights. The public has a right to be informed about the electoral reform campaigns and to attend public rallies such as that organized by Bersih 2.0. The media should be able to independently report on the issue without fear. The assault on the electoral reform campaigns and rallies sends the wrong message to the Malaysian people and the international community about the government’s capability and intentions of conducting free and fair elections.

Sincerely



SDMA is comprised of The May 18 Memorial Foundation, Korea; Odhikar, Bangladesh; FORUM-ASIA, Thailand; PSPD, Korea; Institute for Defense Security and Peace Studies IDSPS, Indonesia; Imparsial, Indonesia; and SUARAM, Malaysia

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