Global Bersih welcomes UK Government Call for External Election Observers ahead of Malaysia’s General Election on May 9th

London – April 19, 2018Global Bersih, the international non-profit organisation of the Malaysian diaspora promoting democratic and electoral reform, and human rights, welcomes the UK Government’s call for Malaysia to invite external election observers, in advance of the 9 May election.

On the 28 March 2018 Ann Clywd MP (Chair of the UK Parliamentary Working Group on Human Rights) tabled a series of questions in relation to the concerns over electoral fraud in Malaysia’s upcoming elections, electoral boundary changes and recent legislation such as the Anti-Fake News Act aimed at clamping down on freedom of expression and democratic rights.

Global Bersih’s defence of Malaysia’s human rights is encouraged by the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Mark Field, addressing these issues with his Malaysian counterparts at the highest levels on a recent visit to Malaysia. We are encouraged to learn that“the UK continues to monitor developments closely, istogether withwith EU and other foreign partners and stand ready to make any necessary representations”.

We also welcome the UK government’s commitment to continue to “follow the political situation in Malaysia closely and the importance of free and fair elections and open and vibrant political debate continues to be raised with their Malaysian counterparts”.

Malaysians abroad are extremely concerned about the current state of affairs in the country. Rampant corruption, including government misappropriation of public funds via state investment fund 1MDB; heightened racial and religious segregation and tensions (and the state’s role in this); the violation of civil liberties, including the recent introduction of the Anti-Fake News Act 2018 which stifles free speech and dissent; and the almost complete erosion of a free and fair electoral process, including widespread gerrymandering, all threaten democratic accountability.

With just eight working days between nomination and polling, voters farther afield who are eligible to vote by post face an uphill battle for postal ballots to be printed, despatched and returned in time to be counted on polling day.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak continues to be embroiled at the centre of the 1MDB corruption scandal, described by the US Department of Justice as the “greatest kleptocracy case in history” alongside allegations of widespread electoral fraud. Shortly after the DOJ report, The Guardian published a detailed article about their investigations, “1MDB: The inside story of the world’s biggest financial scandal.” Clare Rewcastle Brown, founder of whistleblower website, Sarawak Report, and sister-in-law of former British prime minister, Gordon Brown, was instrumental in exposing the 1MDB scandal after receiving thousands of documents, including 227,000 emails, from a former PetroSaudi employee which shed light on the alleged theft of US$4.5 billion from 1MDB. Mired in controversy, we also note Prime Minister Najib Razak’s decision to pull out of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in London this week, therefore forfeiting the coveted post of Chair-in-Office in 2020 that Malaysia had been preparing for.

As the huge government corruption continues to unravel, Najib and his government have responded with an ongoing crackdown on Malaysian rights activists and opposition politicians, including incarcerating opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim following a flawed trial on trumped up charges of sodomy. At the previous elections, GE13, the opposition lead by Anwar Ibrahim won 51 per cent of the popular vote, yet with severe gerrymandering took only 88 seats compared to the ruling government’s 133. Archaic laws such as the Sedition Act 1948, the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012, and other draconian laws (both civil and syariah) are being used to silence human rights defenders, journalists, opposition politicians, and civil society activists in order to maintain the BN coalition’s six decades’ long hold on power.

Global Bersih urges countries around the world to make follow the UK government’s lead and make urgent representations to the Malaysian government in the lead up to polls, urging them and Malaysia’s Electoral Commission to invite independent election observers from the UK, EU, UN, Commonwealth and ASEAN to ensure Malaysia’s 14th General Election on May 9th is democratic, clean, fair and free from corruption and government interference.

NOTES TO EDITORS


Appendix 1

 

The following answers were received by Ann Clwyd MP from the FCO further to the written questions she tabled on 28 March 2018.

Question: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (134836):
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, whether he has made representations to his counterpart in the Malaysian Government on the potential effect of proposed legislation to criminalise fake news on freedom of speech in that country. (134836)

Tabled on: 28 March 2018

Answer:
Mark Field:

​The UK regularly highlights its firm commitment to freedom of speech and expression. I am concerned about the potential effect that the new Anti-Fake News Bill could have on freedom of expression in Malaysia, and about the fact that this Bill was passed without meaningful public consultation or debate. We are monitoring developments closely, working with EU and other foreign partners and stand ready to make any necessary representations.

The answer was submitted on 17 Apr 2018 at 16:05.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (134835):

Question:
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, whether his Department has made an assessment of the effect of proposed electoral boundary changes in Malaysia on the veracity of the general election in that country. (134835)

Tabled on: 28 March 2018

Answer:
Mark Field:

​On my visit to Malaysia last week, I heard about concerns related to the electoral boundary changes introduced by the Election Commission. We will be monitoring their impact, and have discussed the importance of free and fair elections with the Malaysian government at the highest levels.

The answer was submitted on 17 Apr 2018 at 16:03.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (134834):

Question:
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, what assessment he has made of the political situation in Malaysia in the run-up to general elections this year. (134834)

Tabled on: 28 March 2018

Answer:
Mark Field:

​We continue to follow the political situation in Malaysia closely. During my visit to Kuala Lumpur last week, I heard about the recent changes to constituency boundaries and the passing of the Anti-Fake News Bill. I recognise that there are concerns related to both issues. The UK continues to stress the importance of free and fair elections and open and vibrant political debate. We have also encouraged Malaysia to invite external election observers, in advance of the 9 May election.

The answer was submitted on 17 Apr 2018 at 16:01.

For further information, please contact Global Bersih at:

 contact@globalbersih.org

35 Rue du Rothschild

1202 Geneva

Switzerland

www.globalbersih.org

facebook.com/GlobalBersih

twitter.com/GlobalBersih

 

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