Maria Chin Released
On 28 November 2016, Maria Chin was released from her 10-day detention under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012, a day before the hearing of her habeas corpus application.
Maria thanked all of her supporters for campaigning for her release and said “I was released because of your support”. Maria also promised to continue the fight for free and fair elections and institutional reforms.
Police Harassment of BERSIH 2.0 Members
On 2 November 2016, BERSIH 2.0 Northern Peninsular Programme Officer, Lee Chung Lun, was questioned by the Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP), Mohd Hisham, at the Seberang Perai Tengah district police headquarters. He was called in over BERSIH activities which included leafleting at Sunway Carnival Mall and organising speeches at Bandar Perda.
State assemblyman, Lee Khai Loon, who accompanied Chung Lun to the station, was also required to give a statement to the police.
In separate incidents around the country, BERSIH 2.0 members from Johor, Perak, and Sabah have also been questioned, especially in relation to the BERSIH convoy.
BERSIH 2.0 views this as a form of harassment on its staff and participants. Once again, it is another attempt to scare BERSIH 2.0 into submission and clamp down on its activities, especially the BERSIH convoy.
The convoy, which kickstarted on 1 October 2016, was meant to bring BERSIH 5’s demands to beyond the urban setting. It has successfully reached out to 236 Malaysian towns outside the major cities and directly involved supporters in towns all over Malaysia.
Authorities’ Double Standard in Probing NGOs and News Portal for Allegations of Foreign Funding
Minister of Communications and Multimedia Salleh Said Keruak stated that the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) will be probing reports that BERSIH 2.0 and news portal, Malaysiakini, allegedly received foreign funding.
It is important to highlight the fact that there is no law that states that an NGO or a news portal cannot receive foreign funding nor is there anything in the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 that gives power to the MCMC to conduct such an investigation.
When similar allegations were levelled against a certain Malaysian Official 1 who received “donations” and misappropriated massive amounts of public funds, the same ministers who now decry foreign funding for NGOs and news portals scrambled to his defence.
Instead of probing into recycled claims of foreign funding, BERSIH 2.0 questions the inaction of the authorities over the red shirts who failed to give their 10-day notices under the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012 for gathering outside Malaysiakini’s office on Thursday (3 November) and Saturday (5 November) last week.
If the authorities truly believe that the law is applied equally, their leader, Jamal Yunos, should be investigated under Section 9 of the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012.
Furthermore, his threat to “runtuhkan” (collapse) part of Malaysiakini’s building should be taken seriously as it amounts to criminal intimidation under the Penal Code.
As it stands, the authorities seem to be wielding the law to their convenience and silencing views and actions they don’t agree with, supposedly in the name of protecting parliamentary democracy.
BERSIH 2.0 Has Complied with all Provisions under the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012 (PAA 2012)
On 28 October 2016, BERSIH 2.0 delivered the 10-day notice required under Section 9 of the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012 (PAA 2012) by hand to the Royal Malaysian Police headquarters in Bukit Aman, Dang Wangi Police Department District Station, Brickfields Police Department District Station, and Kuala Lumpur Police Department District Station. The notice was to inform the authorities that the BERSIH 5 rally would be held on 19 November 2016 from 10am to 6pm.
It is important to stress that no permit for a peaceful rally is required under the PAA 2012.
BERSIH 2.0’s adherence to the PAA 2012 also extends to all its convoys which ran every weekend since 1 October 2016. On that account, the IGP Khalid Abu Bakar’s statement that BERSIH 2.0 has not submitted notices for its convoys is false.
It is also important to highlight that the Home Ministry does not have the power to ban BERSIH 2.0 (or the red shirts), as Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi suggested.
The ministry has no jurisdiction under the PAA 2012 or the Societies Act 1966 to do so and the ban would be unconstitutional.
It is also to be noted that the issue of BERSIH 2.0 not being registered with the Registrar of Societies (RoS) was already brought up in 2012.
The Home Minister at the time, Hishamuddin Hussein’s, decision to declare BERSIH 2.0 an illegal organisation was quashed by the High Court. Justice Rohana Yusof ruled that the decision was “tainted with irrationality”.
Second Horrific Death Threat Against Maria Chin Abdullah and Her Three Sons, Dato Ambiga, and Mandeep Singh
On 11 November 2016, a WhatsApp message was sent to Maria Chin’s handphone with edited images of decapitated heads of 6 persons by ISIS. They were Maria and her three sons, Dato Ambiga, and Mandeep Singh.
BERSIH 2.0 condemns the death threat and believes that it is not a threat from ISIS, but it seems to be done by people who do not want BERSIH 2.0 to continue with its BERSIH 5 rally and convoy.
This is based on a similar death threat note that was received in October.
BERSIH 2.0 states that such death threats are meant to crush its spirit and instill fear in the public. It also stresses that this is the second threat in a month and the police need to take this more seriously and arrest the culprit(s).
BERSIH 2.0 Office Raided, Maria Chin and Mandeep Singh Arrested
On 18 November 2016 at 3.12pm, the BERSIH 2.0 office in Petaling Jaya was raided by the police. In an ambush that trampled on the rule of law, ten policemen from Bukit Aman led by Assistant Superintendent of Police Wan Aedil barged into the Bersih office citing that the raid was conducted under Section 124(C) of the Penal Code in relation to BERSIH 2.0’s alleged Open Society Foundation (OSF) funding.
In total, 10 laptops (including chargers), pen drives, hard disks, payroll files, bank statements, and documents pertaining to The May 18 Foundation were seized.
Maria Chin and Mandeep Singh were arrested and taken to IPD PJ. Maria is being investigated under Section 124C of the Penal Code for activities detrimental to parliamentary democracy while Mandeep is being investigated under Section 147 for rioting and 511 for acts punishable with imprisonment.
After BERSIH 5 Rally, the Fight for Free and Fair Elections and Institutional Reforms Continues
BERSIH 5’s success in Kuala Lumpur is a loud and clear cry for its 5 demands of institutional reforms.
In conjunction with BERSIH 5’s fifth demand of empowering Sabah and Sarawak, peaceful rallies were also conducted successfully in Sabah and Sarawak. BERSIH 5 was also held in 65 cities worldwide.
The coming together of Malaysians from all ethnic, religious, regional and socio-economic backgrounds in BERSIH 5 shows that institutional reforms and Najib’s resignation are a growing Malaysian consensus that no institutions, parties or groups can suppress.
Beginning 1 October 2016, BERSIH 2.0 embarked on a nationwide convoy which officially launched the BERSIH 5 programme.
The convoys which reached 236 towns and villages in the 6 weeks before the rally on 19 November have proven to be an effective means to break media control and bridge urban-rural divide.
Despite being a success, it is important to note that BERSIH 5 was effectively disabled by the police’s citywide lockdown.
Even after BERSIH 2.0 extended its full cooperation to the police, being fully transparent with its plans, the IGP Khalid Abu Bakar and KL CPO Amar Singh had seriously undermined the rakyat’s constitutional right to peacefully assemble and freely express themselves by imposing restrictions.
The police barricades in Bangsar, Masjid Negara, Dataran Merdeka, and Masjid Jamek; the seizing of BERSIH 2.0’s Hiluxes which served as its stages; and the arrest of its drivers seriously jeopardised the programme, crowd control, security, and communications.
These restrictions had forced BERSIH 2.0 to make several ad hoc decisions and compromises, including the redirection to KLCC, for BERSIH 5 to continue peacefully.
Maria Chin Detained under SOSMA
Maria Chin was detained under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 also known as SOSMA in solitary confinement in a 15×8 feet cell that had no windows and no bed, with only a hard slab of wood on cement floor. Two light bulbs were kept on for 24 hours. She was held for two days before family and lawyers were even allowed to see her.
This inhumane treatment can only be described as torture and is completely unjustifiable.
The use of SOSMA, which is intended as a terrorism counter-measure, against a civil society leader who peacefully champions institutional reforms is a horrific abuse of power.
This complete disregard for the rule of law is a serious threat to democracy and human rights.