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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

No need to register Negara-ku, it’s not a threat to national security, say lawyers

A 2012 High Court ruling declared unregistered electoral reform group Bersih 2.0. a legal entity, saying that it was not a threat to national security, public order and morality. Now, Negara-Ku may rely on the same argument to function despite the Home Ministry declaring it an illegal entity. – The Malaysian Insider file pic, July 30, 2014.A 2012 High Court ruling declared unregistered electoral reform group Bersih 2.0. a legal entity, saying that it was not a threat to national security, public order and morality. Now, Negara-Ku may rely on the same argument to function despite the Home Ministry declaring it an illegal entity. – The Malaysian Insider file pic, July 30, 2014.
Any unregistered society can function as long it is not a threat to national security, public order and morality, said lawyers in response to the Home Ministry's announcement that new people's movement, Negara-Ku, is illegal.
They said just because the society was unregistered, it must not be equated with an illegal entity and this had been affirmed in a 2012 High Court ruling brought by electoral reform group, Bersih 2.0.
On Saturday, the Home Ministry said Negara-Ku was illegal as the Registrar of Societies (RoS) had not received any application from the group to register it as a body.
It added that if the group intended to register, its name was not appropriate as it belonged to Malaysia and could confuse Malaysians.
"This is because Negara-ku referred to 'Negaraku' which has been recognised as the national anthem under the Section 2 of the National Anthem Act 1968,” the ministry said.
Lawyer New Sin Yew said ministry officials must act according to the law before declaring a coalition of non-governmental organisations as illegal.
"You cannot declare a society or a coalition of societies illegal just because they have not been registered," said New, who is also a steering committee member of Bersih 2.0.
New brought to the attention of a High Court ruling in Kuala Lumpur which had on July 24, 2012  quashed the then home minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein’s order in 2011 to declare Bersih 2.0, a coalition of more than 80 non-governmental organisations, a legal entity.
Judge Datuk Rohana Yusof had said the coalition of civil societies known as Bersih 2.0, though not officially registered, could be considered a society under the Societies Act 1966.
“The minister’s order is quashed because Bersih is a lawful society and it was not proven to be a threat to national security, public order and morality,” Rohana had said.
Former Malaysian Bar president and the then Bersih co-chairman, Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan, and 13 of her colleagues in Bersih’s steering committee had filed a judicial review seeking to get the government to lift its July 1, 2011 ban against the movement.
Ambiga then said Bersih 2.0 was set up to represent the legitimate interests and demands of the people for free and fair elections.
Hishammuddin had declared the movement unlawful, citing Section 5 of the Societies Act as investigations had shown that Bersih 2.0 was not a registered organisation and that it was creating unease among the people.
Lawyers for Liberty executive director Eric Paulsen said the ministry officials were attempting to hoodwink the public and put Negara-ku in a bad light.
"There is a coalition of Muslim NGOs which is not registered. Is Putrajaya taking the stand it will not act against them because they are supportive of the government?"
He said early this year, the ministry attempted to declare the Coalition of Malaysian NGOs in the UPR Process (Comango) an illegal entity because it was not registered with the RoS.
The ministry said there were 54 organisations in Comango, but only 15 were registered with the RoS.
Paulsen said later the ministry revised its previous ban without issuing a fresh press statement.
Ambiga, who is now patron of Negara-ku, a coalition of non-governmental organisations (NGO), said it was not a requirement for it to be registered under the Societies Act.
Ambiga said she was disappointed at the ministry's announcement, and questioned why it had to be led by "minority extremist voices".
Negara-ku was launched three weeks ago and is headed by activist Zaid Kamaruddin in an effort to heal Malaysia and restore hope, given the recent challenges that threatened the peace and harmony of its multi-ethnic and multi-faith society.
More than 70 civil society groups and NGOs have endorsed Negara-Ku, which is aimed at mobilising and empowering people to return to the basics of the Federal Constitution, Malaysia Agreement and Rukunegara.
- TMI

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