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Sunday, July 31, 2016

Defend our rights instead, Bersih tells Suhakam

The Bersih coalition has expressed dismay over the newly-minted Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) chairperson Razali Ismail’s remarks about the electoral reform movement.
The coalition said that instead of ridiculing the protesters and urging Bersih not to take to the streets, the protesters should have been commended, and Suhakam should uphold their constitutional right to assemble peacefully without arms.
“We are dismayed that Razali chose not to defend the fundamental right of Malaysians to participate in a peaceful assembly, as enshrined under Article 10 of the Federal Constitution, but instead made disparaging and inaccurate remarks about the hundreds of thousands of Malaysians who turned up for the Bersih rallies,” Bersih said in a statement today.
“We wish to remind Razali that Suhakam is mandated to protect and promote human rights in Malaysia, including the right to hold peaceful assemblies without arms.
“With the passing of a slew of draconian legislation and state prosecutions against politicians, activists and members of the public in recent years, we expect the chair of Suhakam to be at the forefront of defending human rights, so that Malaysia can proudly take its place among the fraternity of developed and democratic nations of the world,” it added.
Bersih was responding to a report published on Sunday in The Star, which quoted Razali urging Bersih to take on more ‘sophisticated’ methods than street protests to further its cause.
“No one can prevent them from asking for accountability. But if you want to make a point, why do you go to the streets? You damage a lot of property and all that. We are not that desperate in Malaysia like in Tunisia or Tahrir Square (Egypt during the Arab Spring uprising),” Razali is quoted as saying.
Pristine condition
On the matter of holding protests at landmarks such as Dataran Merdeka instead of a stadium, Razali said Bersih should promise to return the venue in a pristine condition.
His comments came as Bersih considers the option of holding a fifth Bersih rally.
However, Bersih rebutted Razali’s claims with Suhakam’s own findings during the Bersih 2.0 rally in 2011 and Bersih 3.0 rally in 2012.
It said that Suhakam - which had monitoring teams on the ground to observe the rallies and held public hearings on allegations of violence at the rallies - had concluded that the rallies had turned violent only after the police used excessive force to disperse peaceful protesters.“The resulting chaos and property damage cannot be attributed to the organiser or the protesters,” it said.

The group also took exception to Razali for implying that that the protesters had dirtied their surroundings.
It pointed out that the first time Bersih was allowed to hold its protest without incident last year, it had made arrangements for garbage to be collected, sorted, and disposed.
“We left Dataran Merdeka and its surrounding cleaner than before we started,” Bersih said. - Mkini

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