Repealing Peaceful Assembly Act is key to Sarawakians’ political emancipation

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The event above had to be called off

Civil society groups in Sarawak are demanding the repeal of this act as the first step in restoring basic freedoms to the people and allowing their active participation in decisions affecting their lives.

Of late, there havebeen more frequent calls by various parties including the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) for a revision and even repeal of the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012.

The national human rights body viewed that the promised reforms by the government of the day have been slow in coming, giving the perception that the government is not serious about them. It stated the government’s actions seemed to indicate “a regression in the commitment to advance and promote human rights for all Malaysians”.

In Sarawak, there is an added dimension of complexity when we talk about fundamental freedoms – in this case, freedom of expression, to assemble and to associate under Article 10 of the Federal Constitution.

Initiatives to open democratic spaces for discussion of pressing issues affecting Sarawakian interests and welfare are either subjugated or relegated to something of lesser importance than the “getting back Sarawak’s rights” discourse vis a vis Putrajaya. This is not surprising nor new.

Political subjugation or domination of Sarawak in the then Barisan Nasional-ruled Malaysia was confined to not just the erosion of powers and resources belonging to the state but also the curtailing of civil and political rights.

As civil society actors, we believe that rebuilding an inclusive Malaysia based on the true spirit of the Malaysia Agreement 1963 must also include full attainment of civil and political rights enjoyable by Sarawakians and other Malaysians.

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We thus find it very disconcerting that in this era of the new Malaysia this is still not happening.

In a recent episode, organisers of the Chat with Rose (Rise of Sarawak Efforts) series wanted to hold a forum on “Youth and Employment in Sarawak: Opportunities or Challenge”. But local police stopped the forum at the eleventh hour before it was due to begin. The Peaceful Assembly Act is thus proven to be part of the draconian control imposed by the authorities whether at the federal, state or both levels to deny Sarawakians – as Malaysian citizens – the right to deliberate and form opinions on issues pertinent to their welfare.

Surely the transfer of more power and resources from Kuala Lumpur to Kuching must be accompanied by the political emancipation of ordinary Sarawakians to freely and without fear discuss and participate in issues that affect our daily lives including holding politicians accountable to the people.

Any objection to the political emancipation of ordinary Sarawakians is undoubtedly hijacking the cause of Sarawak autonomy for authoritarian and kleptocratic rule.

Sustaining the political subjugation of ordinary Sarawakians or dumbing us down leaves us with two pathetic choices: to be further looted by Malayan-sanctioned OR home-grown kleptocrats.

We thus call upon NGOs, individual citizens and Sarawakian parties to categorically demand the abolition of the Peaceful Assembly Act as a core element of Sarawak’s political emancipation.

We, the following groups, support and endorse the above statement:

No Endorsee
1 Angkatan Belia Islam Malaysia (Abim) Sarawak
2 Bersih Sarawak
3 Dayak Nation Institute
4 Dayak Think Tank Association Sarawak (DTTAS)
5 Dayak Voice Society (DVS)
6 Global Peace Mission (GPM) Sarawak chapter
7 Ikram Sarawak
8 Jaringan Orang Asal SeMalaysia (JOAS)
9 Jaringan Tanah Hak Adat Bangsa Asal Sarawak (Tahabasa)
10 Lawyer Kamek For Change ( LK4C)
11 Miri United Club
12 Movement for Change, Sarawak (MoCS)
13 Penan Empowerment Networking Association (Pena)
14 People’s Association for Development and Education (PADE) of Penan Sarawak
15 Persatuan Dayak Sibuti
16 Persatuan Masyarakat Tering Miri
17 Pertubuhan Komuniti Harmoni Sarawak
18 Rise of Sarawak Efforts
19 Sarawak Association for Peoples’ Aspirations (Sapa)
20 Sarawak Dayak Iban Association (Sadia)
21 Save Rivers
22 Teori Timur
23 Terabai Kenyalang Heritage Association of Sarawak
24 Parti Bansa Dayak Sarawak Baru (PBDSB)
25 State Reform Party (Star)
26 Sarawak Baru
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Jestqlie Tom Thumb

Sarawakians have been opressed long enough.