Congratulations, Bersih 5; release all those detained!


Aliran congratulates everyone who bravely attended Bersih 5 yesterday despite heavy intimidation. (Malay version)

The point of Bersih 5 was successfully met by the presence of the tens of thousands of people. We congratulate all those involved in its organising.

Ironically some of the organisers were detained on the eve of Bersih 5. Maria Chin Abdullah has been detained under the draconian Security Offences (Special Measures) Act (Sosma), while Mandeep Singh Karpall Singh, Ronnie Liu Tian Khiew, Muhamad Luqman Nul Haqim Zul Razali, Arutchelvan Subramaniam, Wong Chee Wai @ Jimmy Wong, Lee Khai Men, Anis Syafiqah Md Yusof, Hairol Nizam Md Nor, Razali Zakaria and Muhamad Safwan Anang@Talib are being held in remand under Section 147 (related to rioting) or Section 511 (attempting to commit an offence punishable with imprisonment) of the Penal Code.

The arrests have not stopped. Hishamuddin Rais and Fahmi Redza were arrested during the rally while Zuraida Kamaruddin and Tian Chua were arrested later. We expect more.

Aliran strongly condemns the political culture of intimidation and violence. The use of laws to shut down critical voices is utterly undemocratic in nature and totally unacceptable. Organisers, participants and speakers at Bersih 5 had a right to organise, assemble peacefully and voice their protest against a government which has lost all credibility. This right must be respected by any government which claims to be democratic in nature.

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The use of Sosma, a law meant to curb terrorist activities, against Maria is particularly horrific. What is her crime? She has been consistent in her call for free and fair elections. She has repeatedly asked for accountability from the government. She has consistently called for us to reflect on what we mean by (parliamentary) democracy. These are constructive, positive contributions to our national awareness and national development towards a mature democracy.

Maria has never advocated or condoned the use of violence against the government or any person, nor has she advocated any form of illegal activity to bring down the government. Malaysians should be very proud of this remarkable woman.

The fact that the government chose to detain her under Sosma is a betrayal of the government’s original promise about the use of Sosma and shows the desperation of a government which is morally destitute and has much to hide.

Aliran calls for her immediate release – as we do for all the others arrested. The bullying and intimidation of legitimate protest does this government no favours. It just adds to the catalogue of injustice and emphatically endorses why there was a need for Bersih 5.

Let us all keep sharing the five messages of Bersih 5 throughout the country for as long as is necessary to build Malaysia Baru. Let us build a true democracy where accountability and justice prevails.

Free Maria and free all those detained!

Aliran executive committee
20 November 2016

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