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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Sabahans protest against new assembly law

Policemen watched a gathering protesting the Peaceful Assembly Bill, rampant land-grabs and the government's refusal to initiate an RCI on illegal immigrants.

PENAMPANG: Sabahans have joined the growing legion of Malaysians against the controversial Peaceful Assembly Bill.

Yesterday some 100 activitsis and supporters of three causes including the anti-Assembly Bill gathered at the famed Mojuntin Square at the Donggongon township here.

At 11.30am the large group moved towards the statue where they stopped and sang the state anthem “Sabah Tanah Airku” under the watchful eye of about 30 policemen stationed around the square.

At the square they first laid three wreaths at the statue of the late Peter Joinod Mojuntin, “the golden son of the Kadazandusuns” before unfurling protest banners.

Mojuntin, a cherished leader of the Kadazandusun community who was from Penampang, perished in an unexplained plane crash near the Kota Kinabalu airport in 1976, together with other Sabah leaders including then Chief Minister, Fuad Stephens.

The leaders of the group then led the crowd to pay reverence to Mojuntin by bowing three bows before his statue and before laying the three wreaths.

They later unfurled a banner protesting the Peaceful Assembly Bill and hoisted placards demanding a Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) on illegal immigrants in the state.

They also protested the erosion of native customary rights (NCR) and the spate of land grabs.

Alongwith the the RCI and NCR issues, the controversial Peaceful Assembly Bill which lawyers have said was restrictive, has been a hot topic and the butt of jokes among ordinary Sabahans for several days now.

The amended version of the Peaceful Assembly Bill was passed in parliament by a simple voice vote yesterday.

Frustrated opposition coalition Pakatan Rakyat members staged a walkout hours before voting began because the government was adamant in passing the bill despite objections by various quarters including Pakatan reps.

Also present at the protest here were senior NGO and political leaders. Among them were Melanie Chia, state assemblywoman for Luyang from SAPP, well-known local activist Patrick Sindu, Daniel John Jambun who represented UBF (United Borneo Front) chairman Dr Jeffrey Kitingan, Cleftus Mojingol of MoCS Sabah, Chua Men Nam, a son of a local successful trader who is also President of Sabah Small Rubberholders Association, and lawyer Peter Marajin.

The organisers of the event were a group of 13 NGOs and political parties (SAPP and Parti Sosialis Malaysia – PSM), who set up a loose committee helmed by state activists Kanul Gindol, Michael Liew (MCLM – Malaysian Civil Liberties Movement) and Daniel John (CigMa – Common Interest Group Malaysia).

Among the NGOs involved or represented were PACOS, UBF, Borneo Heritage Foundation (BHF), Gindol Initiative for Civil Society Borneo, Transparency International, MAFREL, Sabah Pogun Tokou Society, Land-Grabs Victims Association, MoCS Sabah chapter, SABM (Saya Anak Bangsa Malaysia) and AWAS (Angkatan Warisan Rakyat Sabah).

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