Posts Tagged ‘Bersih 5


Najib’s fear campaign

New Mandala

Najib’s fear campaign

The Malaysian Prime Minister’s ruthless tactics to hold onto power at all costs demonstrate that he is the one who is most afraid while his people are willing to fight on, Bridget Welsh writes.

This week Najib Tun Razak is beating the Malay chauvinist drum at his party’s annual general assembly (AGM). Meetings of the United Malays National Organization (UMNO) have regularly followed this mode, but the use of racism and paranoia have taken on greater intensity in the face of its leader’s eroding political legitimacy.

For the past two years, Malaysia’s Prime Minister has been beleaguered by the 1MDB scandal that has involved not only nearly $700 million going into Najib’s personal account but also raised issues of criminal money laundering, embezzlement and economic mismanagement involving over $3.5 billion. The case is being investigated and prosecuted in over six jurisdictions, most notably by the US Department of Justice. The scandal featured centre stage in last month’s Bersih 5 rally in which thousands went to the streets to protest corruption, economic mismanagement and systematic inequalities in the electoral process.

Despite public discontent, Najib has adeptly used a variety of tactics to stay in power, which is crucial if he is to avoid international prosecution. The most obvious of these involves a crackdown on political opponents. Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim was jailed in 2015. Since then more than 10 opposition politicians have faced a variety of charges from sedition to challenges to ‘parliamentary democracy’. Last month whistleblower and parliamentarian, Rafizi Ramli, was convicted of violating the Official Secrets Act for releasing evidence associated with 1MDB. This week’s UMNO meeting has called for continued no-holds barred attacks on the opposition.

The crackdown on dissent has also targeted civil society. On the eve of the 19 November Bersih 5 rally, its chairperson, Maria Chin Abdullah, was arrested under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act. She was held in solitary confinement, using a provision in the law that was designed for terrorism and national security. This follows a litany of attacks on other activists, cartoonists and artists, as well as ordinary citizens for ‘insulting’ posts on Facebook and WhatsApp. In 2015 there were 91 cases for ‘sedition’ alone. Human Rights Watch has detailed these in an October 2016 report.

The media has also been in the firing line. In 2015 the harassment of publishers led to the closure of The Malaysian Insider. Last month the online portal Malaysiakini was raided, and its editor Steven Gan was charged for simply publishing a video. This comes on the back of the Communication and Multimedia Act being tightened in March. ‘Protection’ from insults has extended beyond Najib to those seen to be protecting him. The aim is to silence criticism of Malaysia’s most unpopular prime minister.

To complement these attacks, Najib’s government has deepened its use of racial chauvinism. From the 2013 elections onwards, it has depicted opposition to it as ‘Chinese’ and reinforced the view that Najib’s UMNO party, is the only viable protector of the Malays. This politicised framing lacks any grounding in reality as over 40 per cent of Malays voted for the opposition in 2013 and the most recent Bersih rally showcased the breadth of multi-ethnic opposition to Najib, especially among young Malays. Nevertheless, Najib’s strategy has increased ethnic tensions along political lines. His ratcheted war-like rhetoric at the UMNO meeting points to a willingness to tear the society apart for his own political survival.

Scare tactics have extended to thuggery, most evident in the crass use of violence and intimidation by the UMNO-linked ‘red shirts’. Some of these political vigilantes – many of them allegedly paid to participate in hooliganism – have also been arrested but have clearly received favourable treatment. Despite official denials, the widespread perception is that thuggery is being promoted by the government.

Najib’s machinations also involve political manoeuvring. He has forged an alliance with conservative Islamist zealots. His government has allowed Wahhabi Islam to extend its extremist and intolerant tentacles through the unchecked and increasingly locally- and internationally-funded religious bureaucracy, with particular support from Najib’s close ally and 1MDB partner Saudi Arabia. Lacking moral authority of his own, Najib has chosen to ally himself with the discredited Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS), led by Hadi Awang and his designer suit-wearing appointees. Perceptions of corruption and discriminatory land grabbing from indigenous people have corroded PAS’s public support, as Hadi has introduced a bill that hypocritically strengthens the punishment of ordinary Muslims for immoral activity. This bill, known as RUU 355, will open up opportunities for abuse by authorities in a government where the rule of law is not fairly practised and fuel ethnic tensions. It is no coincidence that bill was reactivated after the Bersih 5 rally.

Najib’s fear campaign
Bridget Welsh
2 Dec, 2016 – New Mandala


Suaram: Solitary confinement of Maria torture by default

Suaram: Solitary confinement of Maria torture by default

Suaram says the conditions in which the Bersih 2.0 chairperson is kept are a clear case of inhuman treatment, if not outright torture, which is a recognised crime under international law.

PETALING JAYA: Even if the police did not actively interrogate Bersih 2.0 chairperson Maria Chin Abdullah, the absence of interrogation has not absolved the police of the crime of torture, says Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram).

“We are appalled by the statement made by the Inspector-General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar claiming that the police would not abuse Maria Chin Abdullah and that he would personally see that she is not mistreated in detention,” said Suaram executive director Sevan Doraisamy in a statement today.

He said the solitary confinement in which Maria was kept was by its own merit a clear case of inhuman treatment, if not torture.

The human rights organisation said it was also shocked by the IGP’s admission that such treatment was accorded to all Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 detainees, the same Act Maria has been detained under.

“The implication of such a practice implies that the police are actively and openly utilising torture as part of its operations,” he said.

Sevan reminded the IGP that the use of torture was a recognised crime under international law and that the right to be free from torture was a non-derogable right.

Furthermore, he said, the detention conditions experienced by Maria clearly contravened the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the treatment of prisoners.

“There is no ground for the IGP to claim that the detention conditions experienced by Maria comply with international standards,” said Sevan.

“We reiterate our condemnation of the arrest and detention of Maria and call for her immediate and unconditional release.

“Failure to do so would only serve to further sully the reputation and integrity of the Royal Malaysian Police.”

Suaram: Solitary confinement of Maria torture by default
November 27, 2016 – FMT


How Maria’s Sosma detention saved Bersih 5

How Maria’s Sosma detention saved Bersih 5

COMMENT As some have said, Bersih 5 was a flop in many ways, most visibly by the turnout which was considerably smaller than the 100,000-strong touted.

By Malaysiakini’s own reckoning, 40,000 was on the ground that day, though police said there were only 15,000, and some other media estimated even fewer than that.

The fatigue of strenuous politicising had made things difficult perhaps as Bersih, more and more, seemed at times deviated from its purely non-partisan path, in particular the appearance on the podium by former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad, a polarising figure.

This probably turned off quite a few of those who once ardently stood in the NGO’s corner. Though in spirit perhaps, they still hold the thumbs up.

And as the experiment with the TangkapMO1 rally showed, interest from the public was at its lowest ebb. Which made large-scale demonstrations something difficult to pull off quite well.

But symbolically, it was a victory of sorts for bridging the racial divide – while Bersih 4 was labelled as being dominated by the Chinese minority, this time around it was less marked.

Though I personally believe, in Malaysia at least, to mobilise 40,000 demonstrators, is a success itself.

But all that aside, Bersih 5 would have not made the splash it did and given the sustained media coverage worldwide had Bersih chairperson Maria Chin Abdullah not been detained under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act (Sosma).

Had authorities arrested her and released her with all the rest, it would have not put much of a wrinkle on what most people already expected.

After all, it is standard modus operandi for authorities to arrest the usual suspects and harass rally organisers to frighten all the rest.

Tempered with the professional conduct of cops on the rally day itself, the pre-emptive arrests and raids mounted would have just been seen but not quite noted.

But by continuing to detain Maria under Sosma, a law more suited to suspects linked to terror threats, the government is making her a martyr and turning it into a rallying point for Bersih’s cause.

And stories about her sleeping on only a wooden pallet without blankets nor mattress, under lights that won’t go out, either true or exaggerated, would help to build sympathy.

Every day that Maria spends inside her solitary cell is another beating of the drum in Bersih’s name.

Hundreds of new recruits will now walk in her stead and thousands more will support a cause they would earlier ignore.

And instead of shining brightly for one glorious moment and then disappearing back into the oblivion of Malaysia’s short-term public consciousness, the Bersih 5 rally continues to live in media coverage, as well as the tributes and vigils held for Maria.

And instead of just the usual “rabble rousing” foreign media like the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, Maria’s visage now graces a page on Time magazine and other foreign reports.

While locally, whatever a certain minister would say, she is a hero that the people will now look up to.

And so it came to pass that for better or for worse, instead of discouraging more dissent, authorities are stoking the fires themselves.

How Maria’s Sosma detention saved Bersih 5
26 Nov 2016 – malaysiakini


UN’s Nelson Mandela Rule 45: solitary confinement shall be used only in exceptional cases

UN Human Rights Office calls for Maria’s unconditional release

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 24 — Bersih 2.0 chairman Maria Chin Abdullah should be released from her detention under a Malaysian law meant for security offences, the United Nations Human Rights Office (UNHRO) has said.

Its Asia spokesman Jeremy J Laurence said the use of the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (Sosma) against Maria was worrying.

“The use of Sosma — Security Offences Act — against Maria Chin Abdullah — is very concerning. Security legislation should not be used against peaceful demonstrators.

“We call for the immediate and unconditional release of Maria Chin Abdullah and other activists,” he said in an email response to Malay Mail Online this week.

He said the UNHRO also deplores the arrest of nine other Bersih activists ahead of the Bersih 5 rally on November 19.

Maria was arrested on November 18, on the eve of the electoral watchdog’s peaceful assembly. She continues to be detained without trial, under Sosma, while police investigate her under Section 124C of the Penal Code that criminalises the attempt to commit activities detrimental to parliamentary democracy.

Commenting on Maria’s reported solitary confinement, Laurence highlighted the UN’s Basic Principles on the Treatment of Detainees, noting that efforts to push for either the abolition of solitary confinement as punishment or the restriction of its use should be taken and encouraged.

He cited the same principles which calls for the strict prohibition of “all disciplinary measures constituting cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment”, including closed or solitary confinement or other forms of punishment that may result in physical or mental health being compromised.

The UNHRO also highlighted the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners — also known as the Nelson Mandela Rules — in particular its Rules 44 and 45.

Rule 44 describes solitary confinement as confinement for 22 hours or more than a day without meaningful human contact, while Rule 45 states, among other things, that solitary confinement shall be used only in exceptional cases as a last resort and for as short a time as possible and subject to independent review.

The Malaysian Bar noted that Maria’s reported detention conditions were ”oppressive, inhumane and degrading”, adding that it appears to have gone against the Nelson Mandela Rules and highlighted its Rules 13, 14(a) and 21.

Maria, who is said to suffer from hypertension, osteoarthritis and high cholesterol levels, is reportedly being kept in a small windowless cell at an undisclosed location with the lights on 24 hours and without a mattress to sleep on.

Maria’s family had on Tuesday filed a habeas corpus application seeking for her release. The application will come up for case management in court today.

Police yesterday denied that Maria was treated badly and said her detention was in line with lock-up rules and the Prisons Act 1995.

UN Human Rights Office calls for Maria’s unconditional release
November 24, 2016 – MMO


Free Maria Chin, abolish Sosma!

Free Maria Chin, abolish Sosma! — Gabungan Bertindak Malaysia

NOVEMBER 24 — We, the undersigned civil society organizations, strongly condemn the detention of the chairperson of Bersih 2.0, Maria Chin Abdullah, on November 18, 2016 for 28 days under the new Internal Security Act (ISA) – the draconian Security Offence (Special Measures) Act 2012 (Sosma).

We reiterate that the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression of the people are guaranteed by the Federal Constitution. The Bersih 5 rally had been very peaceful and conducted without any untoward incidents despite repeated violence and provocation from the red shirts before the rally. The act of the police in arresting leaders of civil society movements and opposition parties before they could exercise their constitutional rights is not only mala-fide, but also a blatant abuse of powers in violation of the Federal Constitution.

We are further outraged with the use of the draconian Sosma against Maria Chin Adullah. When Sosma was legislated in 2012 to replace the infamous ISA which was abolished after widespread opposition from the people, the government assured the public that the new legislation that gave extensive powers to the police would only be used against terrorists and that “no person shall be arrested and detained for his or her political beliefs and activities.” Those members of parliament that ignored the criticism of the civil society and passed the law should now be held accountable.

Clearly, Maria Chin Abdullah is no terrorist. The use of Sosma against Maria Chin Abdullah to stop her from leading the Bersih 5 rally, and previously against Khairuddin Abu Hassan and Matthias Chang to stop them from lodging complaints of corruption in 1MDB overseas, have proven that when such a powerful legislation is given to the government, it will not hesitate to use it to cover-up the abuse of powers and corruption in the government.

We reiterate our concerns that the prolonged 28 days of detention under the Sosma with limited access to legal representation and family is a blatant violation of international human rights laws. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights provides that no one should be subject to arbitrary arrest and detention and that anyone arrested or detained on a criminal charge shall be brought promptly before a judge or other officer authorised by law to exercise judicial power and shall be entitled to trial within a reasonable time or to be released.

The 28 days of prolonged detention without judicial oversights such as disallowing the detainees to have access to lawyers and family members will only facilitate the practice of torture, either mental or physical or both.

We condemn the use of a secret detention place by the police in detaining Maria Chin. The use of secret detention center is totally unacceptable in a civilised society. All detention centers must be made public and subject to public scrutiny to ensure that they are operated in accordance to the law and the rights of the detainees.

We are therefore extremely concerned with the mental and physical wellbeing of Maria Chin Abdullah who is being held in solitary confinement in a cell with no windows and where the lights are kept on for 24 hours. Such detention environment is inhumane and constitutes a form of torture under international human rights laws.

We demand the release of Maria Chin Abdullah immediately and unconditionally.

We demand that Maria Chin Abdullah have unlimited access to lawyers and her family members whilst she is still under detention

We demand that the authorities preserve and ensure the mental and physical wellbeing of Maria Chin Abdullah while in detention and that she is accorded prompt medical treatment when required.

We call on the National Human Rights Commission to visit Maria Chin Abdullah regularly at the secret detention place to ensure her rights and wellbeing.

We call upon the Inspector General of Police to be more professional and transparent to uphold the law and demand the government to abolish the draconian Sosma.

Free Maria Chin, abolish Sosma! — Gabungan Bertindak Malaysia
November 24, 2016 – MMO


US ‘troubled’ over Malaysia’s detention of activist and Najib critic – The Guardian

US ‘troubled’ over Malaysia’s detention of activist and Najib critic

Maria Chin Abdullah, who has called for resignation of prime minister Najib Razak, in solitary confinement under law intended to curb extremism

The United States has said it was troubled by the arrest of a Malaysian activist and critic of prime minister Najib Razak.

Maria Chin Abdullah, the chair of pro-democracy group Bersih, was detained on Friday under Malaysia’s Security Offences (Special Measures) Act, or Sosma, a law that was introduced in 2012 to fight security and extremist threats.
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She was arrested a day before a demonstration that Bersih had organised for Saturday, when tens of thousands of Malaysians marched in the capital, Kuala Lumpur, demanding that Najib step down over his alleged involvement in a financial scandal.

“We are troubled by the ongoing detention and solitary confinement of Maria Chin Abdullah under national security laws,” Alicia Edwards, a spokeswoman for the US state department, told Reuters in an emailed statement.

The US is also concerned about the Malaysian authorities’ arrest of a number of other organisers, activists and politicians ahead of and during the demonstration, she said.

Nearly a dozen activists and opposition leaders were arrested a day before the rally but they have all been released except Chin Abdullah. Several were also detained on the day of the rally.

“The United States remains committed to the strong and growing partnership we have with Malaysia. In the spirit of that partnership, US officials routinely and strongly voice our concerns about the rule of law, human rights, and fundamental freedoms with the government of Malaysia, and we will continue to do so,” Edwards said.

Maria, who is 60, is being held in solitary confinement in a cell 4.5m (15 feet) by 2.4m (8 feet), where two light bulbs are turned on 24 hours a day, Bersih has said, adding that the cell does not have a window or a bed.

Under Sosma, she can be detained for 28 days without trial.

The Malaysian human rights commission on Wednesday said the arrest under Sosma was unjustified.
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Several other rights groups have said the use of Sosma for an organiser of a peaceful rally is abuse of power and that the Malaysian government is trying to suppress dissent by using draconian laws.

Najib has faced criticism since the Wall Street Journal reported last year that around US$700m from state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) was diverted into the personal bank account of the prime minister.

Lawsuits filed by the US justice department in July said over $3.5bn was stolen from 1MDB, which was founded by Najib, and that some of those funds flowed into the accounts of “Malaysian Official 1”, whom US and Malaysian officials have identified as Najib.

Najib has consistently denied wrongdoing and has consolidated power by sacking critics within his ruling party and cracking down on dissenting opposition party leaders, activists and lawyers.

US ‘troubled’ over Malaysia’s detention of activist and Najib critic
24 November 2016 – The Guardian


Oldest dirty tactic to defame opponents, Anfrel on CIA link claim

Oldest dirty tactic to defame opponents, Anfrel on CIA link claim

Two electoral groups have criticised Umno information chief Annuar Musa who cited them in his bid to link Maria Chin Abdullah to the United States’ Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

Annuar claimed the Bersih chairperson is linked to the CIA through her work with the Asia Network for Free Elections (Anfrel) and the Philippines’ National Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel).

“It is the most common and oldest dirty tactic employed by any ruling power, to suppress and defame those opposing them…

“I can’t help but wonder why such a careless and baseless accusation can come out from an honorable person like Annuar,” said Anfrel executive director Ichal Supriadi in an email to Malaysiakini.

Ichal also invited Annuar to visit Anfrel’s office in Bangkok to view its operations so he would know that the NGO operates in an independent manner.

“I am sure that he will be surprised to know that his accusation is baseless,” he said.

Anfrel chairperson Dammy Magbual said many of Anfrel’s committee members, including himself, serve without remuneration.

“Annuar should prove his statement. If only you know the financial condition of Anfrel. You will realise how cruel the accusation is,” he added in a separate email to Malaysiakini.

Magbual, who is also Namfrel national council board member, said as a volunteer, he spends his own money for activities in Namfrel.

‘Marcos camp started CIA claim in 1986’

Magbual said the CIA allegation against Namfrel has been debunked in several published books.

He added that it was first made by the Ferdinand Marcos camp during the 1986 election.

He also clarified that several Malaysian activists visited Namfrel to learn from their experience, as Namfrel is a pioneer in the region, but this is the extent of its ties to Malaysian civil society.

“Namfrel is oftentimes invited to share its experience with civil society organisations from all over the globe.

“I have been in all six continents for this purpose,” he added.

Annuar yesterday alleged that Maria has CIA links, adding that she is “no ordinary person” and her background warranted further investigation.

Former Bersih chairperson Ambiga Sreenevasan has challenged Annuar to make the same claims on an affidavit.

Police said Maria was arrested on Friday, on the eve of the Nov 19 Bersih rally, over documents found in a raid at the Bersih office in Petaling Jaya.

She is held under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012, which allows detention without trial for up to 28 days.

According to the Human Rights Commission (Suhakam), she is held in solitary confinement in a windowless cell which has only cold water and a wooden bed without a mattress.

She has filed a habeas corpus application challenging the detention, which would be heard next week.

Oldest dirty tactic to defame opponents, Anfrel on CIA link claim
24 Nov 2016 – malaysiakini

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All that is necessary
for the triumph of evil
is for good men
to do nothing.

- Edmund Burke
When the people
fears their government,
there is TYRANNY;
when the government
fears the people,
there is LIBERTY.

- Thomas Jefferson
Do you hear the people sing?