GBM: Civil liberties threatened by new legislation in 2015

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Activists submit a memorandum in Parliament on 3 December 2015 to protest against the National Security Council Bill

The year 2015 has been, without a doubt, a challenging year for Malaysia. Our country faces numerous challenges that will continue to taunt us in 2016, says Gabungan Bertindak Malaysia.

In term of ethnic relations, we have seen ethnic issues continually being used to flame hatred. Not only did we have the racially-charged Himpunan Rakyat Bersatu on Malaysia Day, what seemed like a consumer dispute in Low Yat Plaza and Kotaraya also became racial incidents.

As a coalition of NGOs coming from different parts of Malaysia, and representing many sectors of civil society, GBM cautions that this trend, if it continues unabated, will have grave consequences for existing harmonious inter-ethnic relations in our country.

GBM urges political and community leaders to persist in building bridges and to endeavour to create mutual understanding amongst all sectors of our communities. GBM believes that ordinary Malaysians are capable of seeing through the deceptive tactics by some quarters to jeopardise inter-ethnic relations in Malaysia. We have to avoid the trap set by these unscrupulous groups of people.

Besides ethnic relations, religious matters are also another contentious issue. GBM is very concerned with the inability of some quarters to discuss issues concerning religion with any rational attitude. The rape threat against Noor Farida of the G25 group for her questioning of the khalwat law is one such distasteful example.

GBM believes that the larger Malaysian public values and respects voices of reason. We must not let any room for mutual rational discussion be closed.

2015 has also seen our civil liberty threatened by a series of legislations.

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The passage of the amendment to the Sedition Act early this year, which contradicted the government’s early promise to repeal the law, not only further expanded the scope of the law but also imposes mandatory jailing.

The passing of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (Pota), which provides for a body known as the Prevention of Terrorism Board to detain persons without trial is also a worrisome action.

In December 2015, the National Security Council Bill that allows for the authority to declare and enforce emergency-like powers without the proclamation of an emergency, which can only be made by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, was hastily tabled and passed in both Houses of Parliament.

2015 has also seen the rakyat suffering from a worsening economy. The goods and services tax was introduced on 1 April 2015, seemingly executed without adequate and proper planning, and there were some ensuing confusions lingering – unanswered for a long time, doing much unease and harm to businesses and consumers alike.

The rising cost of living and the fall of our ringgit were also among other economic issues that needed to be given serious attention, too. To compound all these existing calamities and those emerging woes to the ordinary people, it is most unfortunate that the government should and would allow the hikes of numerous toll rates and increased public transport fares at this grave moment.

Despite of all these setbacks, GBM believes every Malaysian is resilient enough to face the compounding challenge confronting us in 2016. It will not be easy; it will be hard and not without difficulty, but nation-building as a national destiny lies as our common task ahead.

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We shall meet, in this hour of challenge and commonality, in a new year of hope and aspiration, to forge together as a nation. Together, we shall and must endeavour to face the challenges ahead – with common confidence and a pulsating pride.

Executive council

Gabungan Bertindak Malaysia

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