Bar Council: Halt Assault On Rule Of Law And Democratic Rights

The Malaysian Bar respects the decision of BERSIH 2.0 to exercise its constitutional right to assemble by doing so in a stadium.

The Yang Di-Pertuan Agong’s special statement, and willingness to meet the top leaders of BERSIH 2.0, are timely and most welcomed.

The Malaysian Bar expresses its shock at the over-reaction of the Government, and condemns the obvious and deliberate escalation in the Government’s brazen abuse of power and persecution of dissenting voices over the past few days.

This has been evident in, among others, the threat of declaration of a state of emergency, use of the Emergency (Public Order and Prevention of Crime) Ordinance 1969 (“EO”) to re-arrest six individuals, arrests of many other individuals, charges against the 24 activists arrested in Penang, declaration of BERSIH 2.0 as an “unlawful society”, and investigation of the BERSIH 2.0 Chairperson’s personal bank account.  The denial of access to legal counsel and family visits for the six individuals is also deplorable.

The Malaysian Bar reiterates its resolute stand that the EO, along with the Internal Security Act 1960 and other preventive detention legislation, are archaic and repressive laws whose continued use is repugnant to civil society.  These laws are devoid of any proper regard and safeguards for human rights, and their use is antithetical to the due process of the law, as no evidence need be produced in a court of law to support the allegations underlying their use.  

By resorting to the EO, the Government has displayed a high-handed and undemocratic attitude, as the use of this oppressive legislation is highly disproportionate to any perceived wrongs committed by the six individuals.  The authorities should charge the six individuals in open court and disclose the evidence against them so that they may receive a full and fair hearing, or release them without delay.

The Malaysian Bar urges all parties to consider the advice of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, and calls on the Government to now replace the sledgehammer in its hand with an olive branch instead.

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