Drop the charges against Maria Chin and Jannie Lasimbang.
Bersih chairperson Maria Chin Abdullah was charged on 3 November 2015 under Section 9(5) of the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012, which requires rally organisers to notify authorities 10 days in advance or face a maximum fine of RM 10,000.
Last week, Sabah Bersih 2.0 head Jannie Lasimbang was also charged under the same section, together with an alternative charge under Section 15(3) of the same law, for failing to adhere to instructions given by the city police chief.
Both these women have been charged in relation to the Bersih 4 rally held in August this year and have now joined the growing list of what is seen by many Malaysians as selective prosecution against government critics.
We have to continue to ask where our country is heading. Just look at the laws being used to detain Malaysians voicing opinions which certain authorities seem to think are worthy of prosecution.
This year alone more than 200 people, many of whom are activists, have been investigated or arrested or charged under a variety of legislation including:
- the Sedition Act (1948),
- the Communications and Multimedia Act (1998),
- the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act (2012) (Sosma),
- the Peaceful Assembly Act (2012),
- Section 8 of the Printing Presses and Publications Act (1984) “for possession of banned publications without a lawful excuse”,
- Section 124(c) of the Penal Code “attempt to commit activity detrimental to parliamentary democracy”,
- Section 124(l) of the Penal Code “attempt to commit sabotage”,
- Section 504 of the Penal Code “intentional insult with intent to provoke a breach of the peace”, and
- Section 505(b) of the Penal Code “for intending to cause fear or alarm to the public or any section of the public whereby any person may be induced to commit an offence against the State or against public tranquillity”.
It is astounding that opinions or people’s participation in a democratic society can elicit such reactions from certain authorities. We should question who actually makes these decisions regarding prosecutions and why.
It is ironic that Maria Chin and Jannie Lasimbang have been charged in relation to an event which calls for transparency and accountability. No one, not even in our present government, would dispute that transparency and accountability are essential to good governance. These are hardly extreme or earth-shattering observations. Doesn’t it make us wonder what our country actually stands for?
We need to get back on track. How do we restore some semblance of rationality and security to our nation?
We need to remind ourselves of what the fundamental principles of democracy and good governance are and include in our struggle space for vibrant debate, mutual respect, protection and celebration of our nationhood and a shared future.
Aliran calls on the authorities to drop all charges against Maria Chin and Jannie Lasimbang and to stop all unjust and unnecessary investigations and prosecutions.
Aliran calls upon the people of Malaysia to continue to stand resolute in a firm commitment towards democratic and good governance principles.
Dr Prema Devaraj
Aliran executive committee member
5 November 2015