MALAYSIA NOW – October 2015

gblogo_transOctober e-newsletter

October was Budget month, the annual government document that plans the coming financial year. At a time of growing global economic uncertainty, the 2016 Budget is a critical part in explaining (or not) how Malaysia survives the downturn in oil, gas and commodity prices as debt rises.

But October was also witness to attacks on Malaysia’s freedom of expression, free speech, and a crackdown on activists.

Law professor Azmi Sharom’s challenge against the Sedition Act – calling for the Act to be ruled unconstitutional – was thrown out when the Federal Court disagreed. The judges ruled that the Sedition Act was constitutional, legally implemented during colonial times, and was modified to bring the Act in line with the Federal Constitution. According to the judges’ comments, all current Sedition Act cases faced by academics, activists and politicians are now back in full swing.

This includes cartoonist Zunar’s trial, expected to start in November, and Prof Azmi’s charge – over a comment he made in a public forum about the Perak royalty’s role in the state’s Mentri Besar crisis – will be heard at his trial.

There are also those charged this month under the Sedition Act, such as political activist Khalid Ismath on 13 October with 14 counts under the Act for posting comments on social media that were allegedly offensive to the Johor royalty. Khalid was initially denied bail, following a previous case when someone charged for a similar alleged offence fled the country after bail was granted. On 29 October, Khalid was granted an interim bail of RM70, 000 and had to surrender his passport.

Rights group Human Rights Watch (HRW) criticised the move, pointing out that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak has repeatedly broken promises to revise laws that hinder peaceful dissent. Instead, the Najib government has gone on a binge prosecuting its critics.

“The government is making a mockery of its claims to democracy and fundamental rights by treating criticism as a crime,” said Brad Adams, HRW’s Asia director. But minister Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim refuted the HRW argument and said it was within PM Najib’s jurisdiction to take such actions.

Others caught in the crackdown are lawyer Matthias Chang, who allegedly worked with Khairuddin Abu Bakar in filing multiple legal suits against 1Malaysia Development Berhad in several countries. They were arrested under the Securty Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (Sosma) and both were denied bail, with their case to be heard on November 5.

Bersih 2.0 also criticised the authorities for charging its Sabah vice-chairperson Jannie Lasimbang under the Public Assembly Act for her involvement in the Bersih 4 rally. This follows a new Court of Appeal ruling that section 9(5) of the Act was constitutional, which means rally organisers who failed to notify the police 10 days before the rally can be charged in court.

Bersih 2.0 continues to pressure the Najib government to come clean, first by making its accounts public and declaring their donations (which amounted to RM2.6 million, with RM664,052 spent on the Bersih 4 rally, leaving a RM1.9 million balance), and by challenging the Prime Minister to reveal the true amount in his personal bank account.

Bersih 2.0 also obtained leave at the High Court to challenge the Home Minister’s gazetting of the ban on yellow t-shirts and other printed materials, which was released two days before the Bersih 4 rally on 29-30 August. Bersih 2.0 also launched a no-confidence vote campaign among the public to pressure their MPs to support such a motion in Federal Parliament.

Unfortunately, Bersih 2.0’s Sarawak court challenge against the Malaysian Election Commission’s (SPRM) redelineation exercise has come to an end. The Federal Court refused Batu Lintang assemblyman See Chee How’s leave on grounds that the matter is now academic.

Global Bersih Urges that Charges against Maria Chin Abdullah be dropped



Global Bersih is appalled at the charging of Bersih 2.0 chairperson Maria Chin Abdullah on 3 November under the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012, for allegedly failing to give the police 10 days’ notice of the Bersih 4 rally.

Despite the Bersih 2.0 coalition having followed due process, even notifying the police of the rally 10 days beforehand, the police insisted on charging Maria.
The Bersih 2.0 chairperson will claim trial under Section 9(1) of the Peaceful Assembly Act, with the date set on December 11 for mention.
This follows Bersih 2.0 vice-chairperson Jannie Lasimbang’s similar charge in the Kota Kinabalu magistrate’s court on 21 October for allegedly failing to notify the police within 10 days of the rally.

The Bersih 4 rally saw the participation of over 500,000 Malaysians in Kuala Lumpur, Sabah and Sarawak, and in 90 cities abroad in solidarity with Bersih 2.0 and Global Bersih. All the gatherings expressed in a peaceful and orderly manner the five core demands of Bersih 4, under the leadership of Maria Chin Abdullah.
By prosecuting and charging her, the authorities hope to intimidate and stifle the people’s right to protest and dissent, even as the Najib government fails to keep the public’s trust and faith.

We urge the authorities to heed the call of several international organisations, including the International Commission of Jurists and Amnesty International to drop charges against Maria Chin Abdullah as the charges against her are unnecessary and outrageous.

Global Bersih also continues to support Maria and Bersih 2.0’s work towards a cleaner electoral system and strengthened institutions in Malaysia.

For more information please do not hesitate to contact us at [email protected]
Global Bersih
35 Rue du Rothschild
1202 Geneva
[email protected]

Zunar’s activities in the United Kingdom

No C Poster London Oct 2015 - Copy

Come join in on Zunar’s trip throughout the United Kingdom.

Zunar is a renowned Malaysian political cartoonist who is currently facing 43 years in prison on 9 charges of Sedition for being an outspoken critic of the Malaysian government. Five of his cartoon books have been banned by the Malaysian government for allegedly carrying content “detrimental to public order” and thousands confiscated in an effort to curtail freedom of expression. On the eve of his trial,  Zunar is coming to the UK to launch a special exhibition of his work at the Cartoonists Museum on the 3/11/15. He is the first Malaysian activist and ‘ARTivist’ to feature in Amnesty’s Write for Rights Campaign that will also launch in November. He was awarded the Hellman Hammett award 2015 by Human Rights Watch and is also the first cartoonist to be awarded the Commitee to Protect Journalists International Press Freedom Award 2015.

Oct 29 – My fight through cartoons: in conversation with Zunar, a political cartoonist from Malaysia


Oct 31 – Cartoon-o-phobia: Freedom through Artivism


Nov 1 – ZUNAR Pop-up cartoon protest in London


Forum with Ivy Josiah (Global Bersih & Member of Programme Committee, Bersih 4 Malaysia)

Bersih Netherlands (Bersih NL) will organise a Forum featuring Global Bersih steering committee member Ivy Josiah, who’s also member of Programme Committee for Bersih 4. Bersih NL would like to call upon Malaysians to come together to find out what is going on in Malaysia now. They are also launching the Bersih NL movement and they would be presenting their goals and missions and to gather support from all Malaysians in NL.

Date: November 1

Time: 2pm – 4pm

Venue: The American Book Center, Lange Poten 23, The Hague.

For more details, please visit these websites here:

Malaysian Judiciary has failed to uphold freedom of opinion and expression in Malaysia’s Police State

SUARAM INTERNATIONAL and GLOBAL BERSIH are extremely disappointed and appalled with the Federal Court decision maintaining that the Section 4(1) of the Sedition Act 1948 is constitutional. Sadly, by not recognizing that the Sedition Act as unconstitutional, the country’s judicial system has allowed the government and police to misuse the Sedition Act, thereby legitimising serious human rights violations against freedom of speech and expression in Malaysia.

Dr. Azmi Sharom was charged under Section 4(1)(b) and Section 4(1) (c) of the Sedition Act 1948. He was charged over his professional comments in a news article titled “Take Perak crisis route for speedy end to Selangor Impasse, Pakatan told”. On 17 September, Dr. Azmi Sharom filed court application to challenge the constitutionality of Section 4 of the Sedition Act which he said that, Article 4 was unconstitutional and violated Article 10 of the Federal Constitution, which guarantees freedom of speech. If convicted, he will face a maximum fine RM 5000, or 3 years jail or both.

The Section 4(1) of the Sedition Act, covers the arrangement of an activity, which would have “a seditious tendency”. It likewise covers speech and the printing, publishing and distribution, reproduction or importation of seditious materials. The burden of proof lies on the person who has in their possession articles that are deemed seditious.

Since the beginning of 2014, at least 78 individuals including Activists, cartoonist, politicians, students, journalists and academicians have been investigated or charged under the Sedition Act.3 Furthermore, the Home Ministry in its official reply in Parliament recently, has indicated that between 2008 and 2015, the government has investigated 409 cases under the Sedition Act. Historically, the Sedition Act has been invoked against those critical of the government.

The Sedition Act is against fundamental human rights standards and violates one of the most important elements of human rights- freedom of opinion and expression. Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and UN Human Rights Committee, emphasizes the importance of freedom of speech and opinion, maintaining that the freedom of opinion and expression are the foundation for every free and democratic society and is a necessary condition for the realization of the principles of transparency and accountability that are in return, essential for the promotion and protection of human rights.

SUARAM INTERNATIONAL and GLOBAL BERSIH strongly condemn the Government of Malaysia in its failure to respect freedoms of opinion and expression. The Government has obligations to protect freedom of speech, opinion and expression of its citizens but unfortunately, in Malaysia, the government has been the main violator of freedom of opinion and expression and the judiciary lacks proper check and balance in defending justice and rights of the people. In recent days we have seen a widespread abuse of police and state powers to crackdown on fundamental liberties and human rights, where Malaysia has descended to the level of a Police State, ruled by law, rather than upholding the rule of law.

SUARAM INTERNATIONAL and GLOBAL BERSIH call upon the government to drop charges against all those charged so far under the Sedition Act, and to stop any further arrests and investigations under the Sedition Act and to abolish the Sedition Act with immediate effect.

For further information please contact,

Dr. Yolanda Augustin, Board of Trustees; Lead Coordinator, SUARAM International [email protected] , +44 (0) 7894319056

Colin Rajah, President of Global Bersih

Email: [email protected]

MALAYSIA NOW – September 2015


September e-newsletter

The 29th and 30th of August saw Malaysians all over the world and in Kuala Lumpur gather together in yellow shirts, voicing from the bottom of their hearts, the five demands – clean elections, clean government, strengthen parliamentary democracy, right to dissent, save the economy, in view of what was seen as blatant abuse of the executive branch including when the Attorney-General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail, then heading the special investigative team towards 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) was inexplicably removed.

The fourth edition of the Bersih rally may have been over, leaving some 200,000 Malaysians in the city and some 18,000 others overseas with good memories and expressing solidarity, demonstrating against the dire states of their country riled with corruption, lack of leadership and a shrinking economy, but the struggle remains ongoing as there appears to be blowbacks to the mega rally.

Aside from having a counter protest  deemed the “red shirt rally”, organized by another group which claims that doing so will regain the Malay identity and ownership in the country from a “Chinese-dominated” Bersih. Although there was a report that there was a directive by ruling party Umno to attend the rally, it was denied as an ultimatum as Najib said the party does not endorse the rally, several leaders of Bersih have also been charged in court for their involvement in other rallies, including Bersih 2.0 chairperson Maria Chin Abdullah, while others like Bilqis Hijjas have been charged in court for menial actions such as letting off balloons containing words like ‘democracy’ and ‘justice’ in front of the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and his wife.

Even then, on the international stage, the situation does not bode well for Malaysia whether it be in name or in reputation. As more authorities in different countries began to initiate investigations into the 1Malaysia Development Berhad – from the Swiss, to the United Kingdom, to the FBI, to Abu Dhabi, whistleblowers like former Umno man Khairuddin Abu Hassan was arrested for going to these respective countries and urged that the accounts and allegations of corruption be looked into. Following that, he was further detained under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (SOSMA) until further action. This was decried by lawyers as unnecessary and the vague terms in the act meant the legislation is vulnerable to abuse.

In other developments, book publisher Mohd Ezra Mohd Zaid’s attempt to strike out a provision within Selangor’s criminal religious enactment which restricts freedom of expression was dismissed by the Federal Court as they deemed that the religious enactment (which differs from state to state) are made by state assemblies to check on any violations to the precepts of Islam. Mohd Ezra previously came under fire for translating Irshad Manji’s book “Allah, Liberty and Love” from English to Malay, and he’s going to stand trial. It’s a worrying development as this demonstrates that civil courts cannot decide on matters involving Islam and religion, and religious departments are immune to scrutiny, according to former law minister Zaid Ibrahim (who is also Ezra’s father).

Meanwhile, Malaysians may have participated in solidarity movements all over the world, but the buck does not stop at just attending solidarity movements, as several events by Global Bersih are heating up in Europe, with Maria Chin Abdullah appearing in two forums organized in London and Geneva respectively, as well as a forum co-organized by Global Bersih and the Paris Bar Council to meet with Steven Thiru, Malaysian Bar president, to exchange ideas and debate about the situation in Malaysia’s current socio-political landscape.

Also, a story project called “Stories from the Malaysian Diaspora” is also initiated to document stories and tales from Malaysians living overseas and their contributions to the cause. This is done with the intention of keeping Malaysians connected even though they are abroad. All one has to do to share this story is to e-mail Kevin Bathman ([email protected]) with:

  1. A photo of yourself
  2. Name of your hometown and adopted new city/country
  3. 50-word story about your life
  4. Your message to Malaysia.

Once that is done, these stories will be shared on the website and Facebook page.

Global Bersih has also continued to engage with their city coordinators overseas to keep in touch of what’s happening on the ground, to gauge their concerns about Malaysia and of their rights even as they reside overseas, trying to provide help through legal advise or addressing their situations. It has also released a strong-worded statement decrying the efforts by the Foreign Ministry to track down those who attended the rally. Moving forward, Global Bersih will continue to highlight concerns regarding the overseas voting mechanism and human rights situation in Malaysia.


Forum with Maria Chin Abdullah and Dato’ Noor Farida, in London on 3 Oct 2015

After Bersih 4, where is Malaysia heading?

A public forum on the political situation in Malaysia after the Bersih 4 rally in August 2015.

Invited speakers :
Maria Chin Abdullah, Bersih 2.0 chairperson
Dato Noor Farida Ariffin, G25 member

When: 2-5pm on Saturday, 3 October 2015
Where: Conway Hall (25 Red Lion Square, WC1R 4RL London, United Kingdom)
Tickets: At the door or online from

Organiser: Monsoons Book Club

Facebook event page


Forum with Bersih 2.0 chairperson Maria Chin Abdullah, in Geneva on 4 Oct 2015

Global Bersih in Geneva


Maria Chin Abdullah

chairperson of the Bersih 2.0 coalition

for a fundraiser buffet lunch

followed by a

presentation and Q and A session.

When: Sunday, 4 October, 12-3pm

Where: UNI – Global Union (at the cafeteria)
8-10 Avenue Reverdil,
1260 NYON, Switzerland

Price: 25CHF per person including drinks

There will be a donation box for those willing to contribute to the Global Bersih fund.

To confirm attendance, please e-mail: [email protected]

Announcement in pdf format

FB event page

steven thiru square

Forum with Malaysian Bar President Steven Thiru on Civil Liberties, in Paris on 2 Oct 2015

QUELLES PERSPECTIVES POUR LES LIBERTES DES CITOYENS EN MALAISIE ? Echange-débat sur la situation des droits de l’homme et ses enjeux législatifs en Malaisie

Fin août 2015, 500 000 personnes sont descendues dans les rues de Malaisie et du monde entier à l’appel de Bersih 2.0 (coalition d’une centaine d’ONG) pour exiger des réformes institutionnelles, dans le sillage de l’un des plus grands scandales de corruption dans l’histoire du pays. Des organisateurs et des manifestants ont fait l’objet d’enquêtes policières au titre de récents dispositifs légaux portant sur des “activités contre la démocratie parlémentaire”.

Depuis les élections controversées de 2013 – qui ont maintenu la même coalition au pouvoir depuis 1957 avec 60% des sièges parlementaires et 47% des voix – le vote et l’application de lois répressives (« sédition », « anti-terrorisme », « assemblée pacifique », etc.) ne cessent d’augmenter, ainsi que d’autres actions officielles portant atteinte aux droits de l’homme et aux libertés fondamentales.

Ces développements ont lieu sur fond de réveil de la société civile (longtemps réprimée), mais aussi de censure de la presse (classement Reporters Sans Frontières 147/180 pays), d’affaiblissement des institutions et d’incertitude économique.

A l’occasion du passage à Paris de

Steven Thiru, bâtonnier de Malaisie,

Global Bersih et AlterAsia, en partenariat avec la FIDH et le Barreau de Paris, sont heureux de vous inviter à un échange-débat autour du thème

Quelles perspectives pour les libertés des citoyens en Malaisie?
à la Maison du Barreau de Paris (Salle Monnerville)
le vendredi, 2 octobre 2015 de 18h à 20h

L’intervention de M. Thiru sera résumée en français et mise en contexte par Etienne Lesage, membre du Conseil de l’Ordre du Barreau de Paris, Charis Quay, représentant francophone de Global Bersih et secrétaire-général d’AlterAsia, et Daphne d’Hervé, avocat au Barreau de Malaisie et au Barreau d’Angleterre et du Pays de Galles.

L’échange-débat bilingue (français-anglais) qui suivra sera modéré par Michelle Kissenkotter, chef du bureau Asie de la FIDH.

Prière de s’inscrire à [email protected], mentionnant son nom et son organisation.
Pour plus d’infos AlterAsia, Global Bersih, FIDH, Barreau de Malaisie, page FB de l’événement
Contacts presse Arthur Manet (FIDH): 06 72 28 42 94 / Charis Quay (Global Bersih) : 06 45 20 89 74

Global Bersih, association de droit suisse, est le réseau international de Bersih 2.0, coalition d’une centaine d’ONG malaisiennes. Son objectif principal est de soutenir la société civile malaisienne dans ses efforts visant à renforcer la démocratie en Malaisie. Les droits de l’homme, la réforme électorale et les reformes institutionnelles plus largement constituent les axes majeurs de son action au niveau international.

AlterAsia est un site d’informations sur les pays d’Asie du Sud-Est (Cambodge, Laos, Thaïlande, Viêtnam, Indonésie, Malaisie, Philippines et Singapour). Il a pour ambition d’informer au-delà des voix officielles en Asie, en rendant audible la voix de la société civile au public francophone. Pour cela, le site traduit en français, chaque semaine, l’actualité publiée par des médias locaux indépendants et/ou alternatifs.

Communiqué en français (pdf)

A forum on human rights and legislative developments in Malaysia

The Bersih 4 rally at the end of August saw 500,000 people on the streets in Malaysia and around the world to demand institutional reforms in the wake of one of the biggest corruption scandals in the country’s history. A number of the rally’s organisers and participants were subsequently investigated under recent legislation for “activities detrimental to parliamentary democracy”.

Since the controversial 2013 general elections – where the coalition in power since 1957 won 60% of the seats in Parliament with 47% of the popular vote – Malaysia has seen an uptick in the passage and implementation of repressive laws (e.g. the Sedition, Prevention of Terrorism, Peaceful Assembly Acts) as well as other actions by the state (and state-linked actors), which raise grave concerns for human rights and fundamental liberties.

These developments are taking place against a backdrop of a flourishing civil society (after a long winter of repression), but also strong media censorship (RSF ranking 147/180), weakened institutions and an increasingly uncertain economic situation.

On the occasion of the visit to Paris of

Steven Thiru, President of the Malaysian Bar,

Global Bersih et AlterAsia, with the support of the FIDH and the Paris Bar,
are pleased to invite you to a forum discussing

Malaysia: Quo Vadis?
at the Maison du Barreau de Paris (Salle Monnerville)
on Friday, 2 October 2015 from 6pm to 8pm

Thiru’s talk will be summarised and contextualised in French by
Etienne Lesage, member of the Paris Bar Council
Charis Quay, Global Bersih francophone representative and AlterAsia secretary-general
, and
Daphne d’Hervé, LLB (Cantab.), member of the Bars of Malaysia, and of England and Wales.

The bilingual (French-English) discussion will be moderated by
Michelle Kissenkotter, FIDH Head of Asia Desk.

Please register at [email protected], mentioning your name and organisation.
Further information AlterAsia, Global Bersih, FIDH, Malaysian Bar, FB event.
Press contacts Arthur Manet (FIDH): 06 72 28 42 94 / Charis Quay (Global Bersih) : 06 45 20 89 74

Global Bersih, an association under Swiss law, is the international network and international advocacy arm of Bersih 2.0, a coalition of almost a hundred Malaysian NGOs. Global Bersih’s primary purpose is to support Malaysian civil society in its efforts to strengthen Malaysia’s maturing democracy. Global Bersih’s international advocacy efforts focus on electoral reform, human rights and strengthening institutions.

AlterAsia is a news website focusing on Southeast Asia: Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines and Singapore. AlterAsia aims to convey non-official perspectives by making civil society voices from these countries audible to the Francophone public. To this end, AlterAsia news publishes, on a weekly basis, news translated into French from local independent and/or alternative media.

Press release in English (pdf)