Bersih 2.0’s Neverending Judiciary Challenges
Bersih 2.0 chairperson Maria Chin Abdullah pleaded not guilty to a charge that claims that she had not given notice to the authorities for organizing the Bersih 4 rally. The trial is set to commence on December 11. This follows the Court of Appeals’ verdict that giving notice to authorities is considered mandatory in the constitution, despite a previous ruling that contested otherwise.
A challenge filed by Bersih 2.0 against the Home Ministry’s gazette banning Bersih t-shirts and other materials a few days before the August 29 rally, prompted the court to urge the Home Ministry to respond by submitting its defense. In the application, Bersih 2.0 said the gazette has branded thousands of Malaysians participating in the rally as criminals; such an order was unreasonable, illegal and made in bad faith.
Notable Local News
The Sarawak constituency redelineation exercise will proceed after Parliament agreed to allow the Election Commission to continue its redelineation exercise in the state. A total of 130 MPs voted for the exercise and 72 MPs against. Sepang MP, Mohamed Hanipa Maidin, said that since the High Court and the Court of Appeal had differed in their ruling on the matter, the Federal Court should make a decision on it. Minister in the Prime Minister’s department, Nancy Shukri, however refused to comment.
Bridget Welsh, a political analyst, published an interesting analysis about Najib’s leadership in the New Mandala website. She explained that while Najib’s current course of action may result in short term gains, his decisions may inflict long term damage to the UMNO party, the Barisan Nasional coalition and the country.
International Bodies Condemn Malaysia’s Human Rights Situation
The human rights situation in Malaysia has been gaining increasing attention on the international front. The International Commission of Jurists, in an open letter to Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak, called for investigations against Maria Chin Abdullah and other organizers of Bersih 4 to be dropped. The body also urged the Malaysian government to amend the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012 to ensure that the rights of all Malaysians to participate in peaceful assemblies are protected.
Meanwhile, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention concluded that the detention of Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim was arbitrary, that he was denied a fair trial, and that he was jailed for political reasons. The working group urged the Malaysian government to release Anwar immediately, and ensure that his political rights are reinstated; this was according to a copy of the opinion released by his family.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) has also criticized the Malaysian authorities for attacking their critics even as they were playing host to several high profile summits, including meetings with the United States President, Barack Obama. “Exposure of corruption and criticism of the government are essential elements of a rights-respecting democracy,” HRW Asia advocacy director John Sifton said.
Continued Highlights of Malaysian Cartoonist
Malaysian cartoonist, Zulkiflee Anwar Alhaque, popularly known as Zunar, has been traveling all over the globe. He was in New York to accept the 2015 International Press Freedom Award from the Committee to Protect Journalists – the first ever cartoonist to do so. Zunar was able to highlight his case in New York and Australia; he informed his audience that once he returns to Malaysian soil, he will be facing several sedition charges that could result in him spending a possible 43 years in prison.
Making a Mark Through Activism
Global Bersih has opened up yet another chapter, with the official launch of Bersih Netherlands. It was opened with the aim of bringing electoral awareness to Malaysians based there. Bersih Netherlands would like to create a platform for Malaysians from all walks of life in the Netherlands, and for them to be informed of the social, political and economic situation in Malaysia. Read more about their formation here.
Four Malaysian students who joined the Global Bersih movement in Perth have shared their experiences participating in civil movements overseas. They will return home with more political knowledge and be able to better embrace democratic ideals. “Here in Australia, I have learned about real freedom,” said student Zafri Zulkifli. “One has freedom to talk about everything”.