Take a stand, Mr PM

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All eyes are on the Article 11 forum in JB on Saturday, which is already shrouded in controversy and uncertainty. In the aftermath of the disrupted forum in Penang, Aliran wrote to the Prime Minister urging him to take a principled stand on the issue. 

YAB Datuk Seri

Developments following the Forum “Federal Constitution: Protection for All” in Penang

Forgive us for asking for your time, but we are most concerned at the developments following the disruption of the forum organised by Article 11 and Aliran in Penang on 14 May.

You will know that the legitimate right to hold a forum, to peacefully and inclusively discuss a matter of concern to many Malaysians of all races, was infringed by a small group of threatening, inciteful and disruptive persons whose antics led the police to strongly advise the organisers to cut short the forum because of the threat of violence.

As we are sure YAB will agree, this was already a severe blow to those of us who hold our Federal Constitution dear.

Events subsequent to the disruption, however, are further shaking the confidence of Malaysians everywhere. Our Federal Constitution should serve to protect us, but it seems it is in danger of being circumvented and its guarantees demeaned. We are sure YAB is most anxious to uphold the values and the rights which our Federal Constitution enshrines. We are sure that the threats and intimidation presently being circulated by groups and individuals who were involved or associated with the illegitimate and inciteful action in Penang should be treated with not just the scant respect they deserve but with concrete action to bring instigators to justice where they have breached those rights guaranteed to us all.

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Our certainty, however, is in need of reassurance. We are alarmed at the increasingly strident and threatening tone taken by the groups mentioned above. Are they to be allowed to continue to attempt to raise the temperature of all Malaysians by circulating their distortions of what Article 11 and we stand for? Are they to be allowed to threaten further (illegal) disruptions of legitimately constituted forums at which Malaysians of any race are free to attend and debate? Is this the Malaysia of the future – where the rights of Malaysians are to be held hostage by the bullying tactics of a few?

Further, we were most surprised and concerned to read of YAB’s comments regarding the Sedition Act, about which we would appreciate clarification.

Aliran has always stood for peaceful, legitimate and inclusive discussion of issues that affect all Malaysians. We do not seek to divide, but to bring together. We do not champion chauvinism, but decry it. How can any seditious motive be imputed to us for taking the initiative to discuss such an area together? We are discussing, we are exploring. Malaysians of all religions and races attend our forums; everyone is encouraged to give their views without fear or favour. We respect the right of each individual to hold his or her opinion and to freely state it. We would ask for mutual respect in return. We do not impose anything on anyone, we do not seek to bully anyone to do anything, and we do not advance a cause by intimidation or violence. Instead we seek to bring people together, to bridge gaps, to unite people in the common concern that is Malaysia. For this, surely we ought to be congratulated.

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Yet now we stand accused of having an agenda ‘yang serong dan tidak baik ke atas Islam dan umatnya’ (to quote a recent PAS memorandum to your good self) and our action was described as ‘biadap’ (in Harakah). Certain groups are asking for action to be taken against us and the other organisers of the Forum.

By giving them any kind of encouragement, one bestows legitimacy on their unfounded accusations. This can only inflame the situation, giving them more excuse to peddle their distortions, no doubt in order to gather more supporters who are willing to violate the laws and Constitution which YAB has been elected to uphold.

We humbly submit that, if no action is taken, the situation can only deteriorate and, with it, the meaning of the rights of all Malaysians will be hollowed. As the message of the schoolyard says, the more one gives in to bullies the more they will bully. When those who resort to intimidation are given credence, then freedom and security will suffer, perhaps irredeemably.

We are sure we share with YAB the desire to avoid such a depressing future for our country and for all Malaysians. So we petition YAB to take necessary action to put an end to this unsavoury episode. We urge YAB to state clearly unequivocally that the Article 11-Aliran forum was legitimate, designed to encourage free, open and non-antagonistic discussion of several issues of current public importance, and that the right to organise such a forum is protected by our Federal Constitution. Finally, we request that YAB should reaffirm that the government will take prompt and appropriate action against anyone who seeks to obstruct or terminate such a forum by intimidation, incitement and/or the spread of false information.

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Thank you for your attention.

Yours sincerely,
Aliran Executive Committee
20 May 2006

c.c. Timbalan Perdana Menteri

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