Maria’s travel ban highlights Malaysia’s plight and Najib’s fear

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We the undersigned civil society organisations condemn Prime Minister Najib Razak’s abuse of power in arbitrarily banning Maria Chin Abdullah, the chairperson of the Coalition for Clean and Free Elections 2.0 (Bersih 2.0) from leaving the country.

This pathetic move is to deliberately prevent Maria from receiving the prestigious Gwangju Prize for Human Rights. Previous awardees include Xanana Gusmão of East Timor and Ang Sang Su Kyi of Burma.

Keeping Maria in the country does not spare the Najib government the embarrassment in Gwangju, South Korea this coming Wednesday. If anything, Najib and his deputy-cum-Home Minister Zahid Hamidi are making themselves comparable to Indonesia’s dictator Suharto and Burma’s military junta, against whom Gusmao and Ang Sang relentlessly fought.

Maria’s absence would be the best testimony of both Malaysia’s plight under a corrupt and authoritarian government and Najib’s fear of the global denunciation he is getting for his 1MDB mega scandal.

In banning Maria, Najib and Zahid are also recognising the strength of Bersih 2.0, in the words of the Gwangju Prize for Human Rights Committee on April 21, as “an example of strength for the country in the face of mounting challenges from the state”. They are recognising the power of millions of Bersih supporters especially the 500,000 Malaysians who participated in the Bersih 4 rally last year. They are showing their fear.

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Bersih 2.0 has not only given “vibrancy to electoral reform and made it a national agenda for change with its eight demands”. It is now fighting for institutional reforms to establish a healthy multiparty democracy.

And given Maria’s travel ban and Sarawak Chief Minister Adenan Satem’s illegal barring of politicians and activists from entering Sarawak, the institutional reforms Bersih 2.0 fight for must now include that of immigration control to prevent blatant power abuse by unscrupulous executives.

We call upon Malaysians to stand up and demand that Najib and Zahid immediately lift the travel ban on Maria and others and apologise to the public for abusing their power.

Essayist Edward Abbey famously said, “A patriot must always be ready to defend his country against his government.” Now is another key moment when patriotic Malaysians should stand up and be counted.

This statement is endorsed by the following civil society organisations:

  1. Akademi Belia
  2. All Women’s Action Society (Awam)
  3. Angkatan Warga Aman Malaysia (WargaAman)
  4. Asalkan Bukan Umno (Abu)
  5. Borneo Resources Institute, Malaysia (Brimas)
  6. Centre to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4)
  7. Engage
  8. The Federation of Alumni Associations Taiwan University, Malaysia (FAATUM)
  9. Federation of Malaysian Indian Organisation (Prima)
  10. Friends of Kota Damansara
  11. Greenfriends Sabah
  12. Institute for Development of Alternative Living (Ideal)
  13. Islamic Renaissance Front (IRF)
  14. Jaringan Hak Adat Bangsa Asal Sarawak (Tahabas)
  15. Jaringan Orang Asal SeMalaysia (JOAS)
  16. Jihad for Justice
  17. Kelab Bangsar Utama
  18. Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall (KLSCAH)
  19. Kumpulan Aktivis Mahasiswa Independen (Kami)
  20. LLG Cultural Development Centre (LLG)
  21. Malaysian Indians Progressive Association (Mipas)
  22. Malaysian Indians Transformation Action Team (Mitra)
  23. Malaysian Youth Care Association (Prihatin)
  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 Kesedaran Komuniti Selangor (Empower)
  31. Persatuan Masyarakat Selangor dan Wilayah Persekutuan (Permas)
  32. Persatuan Rapat Malaysia (Rapat)
  33. Progressive University of Malaya
  34. Projek Dialog
  35. Pusat Komas
  36. Research For Social Advancement (Refsa)
  37. Rise Of Sarawak Efforts (Rose)
  38. Sabah Women’s Action Resource Group (Sawo)
  39. Saccess Sarawak
  40. Sarawak Women for Women Society (SWWS)
  41. Save Open Spaces, Kota Kinabalu
  42. Save Rivers
  43. Saya Anak Bangsa Malaysia (SABM)
  44. Society for the Promotion of Human Rights (Proham)
  45. Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram)
  46. Teoh Beng Hock Trust for Democracy
  47. The Association of Graduates from Universities and Colleges of China, Malaysia (Liu Hua)
  48. Tindak Malaysia (TM)
  49. We Are Malaysians
  50. Women Centre for Change, Penang (WCC)
  51. Writer Alliance for Media Independence (Wami)
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