IMMEDIATE PRESS RELEASE
GLOBAL BERSIH CONDEMNS THREATS OF LEGAL ACTION AGAINST GB PARTICIPANTS
Geneva, 3 September 2015 — Global Bersih unequivocally condemns reports of the Malaysian Foreign Ministry threatening Malaysians abroad with legal action for participating in Bersih solidarity rallies across the world.
Deputy Foreign Minister Reezal Merican was reported to have said that the identity of Malaysians who participated in such rallies would be collected and “handed over to the relevant authorities for action”. He claimed “their actions could tarnish the image of the country at the international level”.
Global Bersih is appalled that Wisma Putra would penalise thousands of Malaysians abroad exercising their civic duties and rights of free expression.
“These statements directly contradict Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and Article 10 of Malaysia’s own Constitution, both of which guarantee the freedoms of expression and assembly,” said Lydia Chai, a Global Bersih steering committee member in Auckland, New Zealand. “Rather than tarnishing the image of Malaysia, we are doing our best to work towards a better Malaysia. This even includes a call to strengthen the economy.”
Over 18,000 Malaysians living abroad participated in rallies around the world on 29-30 August in solidarity with the Bersih 4 rallies in Kuala Lumpur, Kota Kinabalu and Kuching.
Around 90 rallies were organised in 40 countries by more than 100 city coordinators, centrally coordinated by Global Bersih.
“We are outraged if Malaysia’s foreign ministry continues to harass Malaysians abroad, be they students, civil servants or professionals. These are solidarity gatherings for Bersih 4, which calls for democratic reforms. The gatherings all over the world have been peaceful without disturbing others. The foreign ministry should not apply such pressure on the overseas Malaysians just for expressing themselves,” added Maria Chin Abdullah, Chair of Bersih 2.0.
Global Bersih’s Secretary Bala Chelliah in Geneva, Switzerland, said Malaysians will continue to be supported abroad exercising their constitutional rights, with legal support at home should the need arise. “Global Bersih is collaborating with Bersih 2.0 and Lawyers for Liberty to ensure each and every Malaysian abroad can travel safely and securely back and forth from home,” Bala said.
Charis Quay, Global Bersih Steering Committee member in Paris, said thousands of Malaysians abroad stood in solidarity with those at home in support of Bersih’s demands for greater democracy and accountability. “Malaysians around the world have come out in solidarity with our more than 300,000 friends and family members back home who were part of the historic Bersih 4. We will continue to stand united and in solidarity with them to call for Institutional reforms and a better Malaysia.”
Human Rights Watch reminded the deputy minister of Malaysia’s international obligations to respect human rights. “Malaysia should recognise that its people have the right to voice their political views, even if the government disagrees with what they have to say,” Deputy Asia Director Phil Robertson said. “Violation of that right will have serious consequences for Malaysia’s international reputation.”
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