Defend our right to assemble peacefully, Bersih 2.0 urges Razali Ismail

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Uphold the right to freedom of assembly - Image: Amnesty International

Bersih 2.0 reminds the new Suhakam chair that the commission is mandated to protect and promote human rights in Malaysia, including the right to hold peaceful assemblies without arms.

Bersih 2.0 wishes to respond to the comments made by the new chairman of Suhakam (the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia) Razali Ismail in The Star Online on 31 July 2016, calling for Bersih 2.0 not to take to the streets to make known our demands to the government.

We are dismayed that Razali chose not to defend the fundamental right of Malaysians to participate in a peaceful assembly as enshrined under Article 10 of the Federal Constitution but instead made disparaging and inaccurate remarks about the hundreds of thousands of Malaysian who turned up for all the Bersih rallies.

Contrary to what  Razali claimed – that Bersih rallies “damaged a lot of properties” – Suhakam who monitored our rallies had consistently concluded that our second and third rallies turned violent only after police used “excessive force” to disperse the peaceful protesters through the firing of tear gas, water cannons and beatings of non-violent protesters. The resulting chaos and property damage cannot be attributed to the organiser or the protesters.

Bersih 2.0 also takes exception to the implication made by Razali that we dirtied the surroundings of the venue when we held a rally. When we were allowed to protest peacefully for the first time during Bersih 4 last year, we proved beyond doubts that as an organiser we are capable and responsible. We made arrangement for rubbish to be collected, sorted and disposed throughout the 34-hour rally. We left Dataran Merdeka and its surrounding cleaner than before we started.

READ MORE:  Organising of rallies should not be confined to NGOs

Malaysians from all walks of life who came out for Bersih rallies were patriotic, peaceful and disciplined. Tens of thousands were also determined enough to sacrifice the comforts of their beds and slept on the streets of Kuala Lumpur during Bersih 4, and yes, many didn’t wash or shower for two days.

They did it because they want to see a clean government free from corruption, free and fair elections; assert their right to dissent; uphold parliamentary democracy; and save our economy from ruination. They deserve praise, not ridicule.

We wish to remind Razali that Suhakam is mandated to protect and promote human rights in Malaysia, including the right to hold peaceful assemblies without arms. With the passing of a slew of draconian legislation and state prosecution of politicians, activists and members of the public in recent years, we expect the Suhakam chair to be at the forefront of defending human rights so that Malaysia can proudly take its place among the fraternity of developed and democratic nations of the world.

Bersih 2.0 steering committee members

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