Suaram has called on the police and the Registrar of Societies to cease immediately the harassment and intimidation of leaders of Negara-Ku.
Suaram condemns the Malaysian government, and particularly the Registrar of Societies (ROS), for its actions in deliberately and systematically harassing and intimidating members of the steering committee of the Negara-Ku movement.
We call on the police and the Registrar of Societies to cease immediately such harassment and intimidation against leaders of Negara-Ku.
Five members of its steering committee have already been called in for questioning for their involvement in Negara-Ku, with the sixth and final member, Jerald Joseph, scheduled to be interrogated by the Registrar of Societies on 3 October 2014.
They are being called up under Section 66(1) of the Societies Act of 1966 which states:
The Registrar or an Assistant Registrar may summon before him any person who he has reason to believe to be able to give any information as to the existence or operations of any unlawful society, or suspected unlawful society, or as to the operations of any registered society.
The chairperson, Zaid Kamaruddin from Ikram, was brought in to the Registrar of Societies on 27 August to have his statement taken.
This was followed up on 17 September 2014 by Haris Ibrahim, a lawyer and human rights defender with Asal Bukan Umno (Abu), being brought in for further investigation.
Mustaqeem Mahmod Radhi, a project manager at the think tank Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (Ideas), and Stanley Yong Yew Wei, secretary general of the Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall, both members of the steering committee, were brought in for questioning on 24 September 2014.
Jayanath Appudurai, the fifth member of the steering committee who was brought in for questioning, was interrogated on 29 September 2014.
This represents the government deliberately harassing and intimidating, with the intent of limiting the rights to association, speech and assembly, a civil society movement led by human rights defenders advocating unity, human rights, and political moderation.
It is absolutely shameful that the Registrar of Societies is abusing its overly broad authority to harass and intimidate the leaders of a movement, who merely seek to encourage racial and religious harmony in Malaysia, and to ensure the peaceful prosperity and human rights of all Malaysians.
The objectives of Negara-Ku are clear and open to public, which is to defend the Federal Constitution, the Malaysia Agreement of 1963 and the Rukun Negara. There is absolutely nothing wrong with such objectives. The government should thank Negara-ku for helping to promote better understanding among different ethnic groups, maintain a harmonious society and protect the rule of law instead of cracking down on them.
Moreover, Article 10 of the Federal Constitution grants the people the right to freedom of association. Accordingly, the general public have the right to organise in association with others on public interest issues and the responsibility of the government is to facilitate such exercise of the rights of the people and not to curtail it. The Societies Act, which is a parliamentary law, must not supersede the Federal Constitution, which is the highest law of the land.
Suaram demands that the Registrar of Societies immediately end their harassment and intimidation against the leadership of the Negara-Ku movement, and abstain from taking any actions against the leadership of Negara-Ku, or other similar movements, in the future.
The intimidation of the leaders of Negara-Ku using the Societies Act illustrates the vast powers given to the authorities and how such powers could be abused and misused in violation of the rights of the people. We call for the immediate review of the Societies Act in order for it to be brought in line the Federal Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Yap Swee Seng is executive director of human rights group Suaram