Global Bersih: With UN eyes on Bersih 4, rights violation will be ‘bad publicity’ for Putrajaya

Ivy said that the UN rights experts serve as a 'check and balance' to Putrajaya, with their monitoring and reports helping to push countries to improve their human rights standards. — Picture by Saw Siow Feng
Ivy said that the UN rights experts serve as a 'check and balance' to Putrajaya, with their monitoring and reports helping to push countries to improve their human rights standards. — Picture by Saw Siow Feng

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 28 ― Global Bersih said it has notified independent experts from the United Nations about tomorrow’s Bersih 4 rally and that any potential human rights violation by Putrajaya will likely result in “bad publicity” and a dented image.

Global Bersih steering committee member Ivy Josiah said the international movement has already been in touch with two UN experts ― the Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of expression, as well as the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly.

“We will review the situation and if it warrants an action, we will send a communication and may even request them to visit human rights defenders here so they can make a report,” she told Malay Mail Online earlier this week.

According to Ivy, these UN rights experts serve as a “check and balance” to Putrajaya, with their monitoring and reports helping to push countries to improve their human rights standards.

“The UN special rapporteur will express their concerns or may even ask, they may come to make an enquiry like an actual visit to Malaysia,” she explained, adding that UN special rapporteurs had in 2012 sent an enquiry to the Malaysian government after the Bersih 3.0 rally for electoral reforms. Two had requested to visit, but the Malaysian government did not extend an invitation to them.

Malaysia’s permanent representative to the UN, Datuk Mazlan Muhammad, had in September 2012 wrote a letter to answer the special rapporteurs’ allegations of rights infringement and to express Putrajaya’s commitment to rights of freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.

Ivy said it would be akin to a “slap on the wrist” for Malaysia if the authorities’ rights violations are recorded by these UN experts in their reports.

“Once your name comes out in the report, it's bad publicity. It means Malaysia will be shown in a poor light. It's an embarrassment.

“It's up to Malaysia how they may want to take it and if they want to rectify human rights standards,” she said.

Beyond a country’s obligation to explain its rights violations, Ivy said there would also be other practical “repercussions”, adding: “It affects the image of the country, it affects tourism, it affects businesses which do not want to go into a country which does not respect human rights.”

On top of attention from the UN, Ivy said that international watchdogs such as the Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International are already keeping an eye on the overnight Bersih 4 rally.

The five demands that will be raised during the 34-hour rally, which is scheduled from 2pm on Saturday to 11.59pm Sunday at the city centre, Kota Kinabalu in Sabah and Kuching in Sarawak, are: clean elections; clean government; right to dissent; strengthening parliamentary democracy and saving our economy.

According to Global Bersih president Colin Rajah and secretary Bala Chelliah, Malaysians abroad are also expected to hold gatherings in 53 cities in 22 countries to coincide with the Bersih 4 rally here.

"As they are solidarity rallies, cities are having events lasting 2-3 hours either on Aug 29 or 30th,” the duo said in an email reply to Malay Mail Online earlier this week, with such rallies to occur throughout the Bersih 4 rally due to the different timezones.

The two also said the turnout for the previous Global Bersih rallies was around 10,000, adding that they expected the turnout this time to at least match this figure.

Ivy said participants of Global Bersih rallies tend to be working adults, students and families, noting that those who were abroad on holiday trips had also in the past joined the rallies.

She also said that most of them are still Malaysians, noting: "They still have citizenship, they even come back to Malaysia to vote because they don't even trust postal votes."