Dr Wan Azizah condemns Putrajaya ‘clamp down’ on Bersih 5 eve

Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail waves to rally-goers during Bersih 4 in Kuala Lumpur August 29, 2015. — Picture by Saw Siow Feng
Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail waves to rally-goers during Bersih 4 in Kuala Lumpur August 29, 2015. — Picture by Saw Siow Feng

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KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 18 — Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail denounced the government’s “clamp down” on pro-Bersih supporters on the eve of its street demonstration in the city tomorrow.

She noted the government dragnet started with the prosecution of Malaysiakini editor-in-chief Steven Gan this morning, and continued with the arrests of Bersih 2.0 chairman Maria Chin Abdullah, the electoral watchdog’s secretary Mandeep Singh, her fellow Opposition lawmaker Anthony Loke and others.

“I fully condemn this series of hard actions.

“At the same time, if anyone thinks these arrests and clamp down will break our fighting spirit and frighten the people from participating in the Bersih 5 peaceful assembly, it will only increase the people’s anger,” she said in a statement.

In a separate statement, Amnesty International too condemned the government for what it called crude and heavy-handed attempts to cow human rights defenders.

The global human rights watchdog noted today’s arrests included Bersih 2.0 chairman Maria and her fellow steering committee member, secretary Mandeep, noting they had been campaigning for electoral reform and were against corruption.

“These arrests are the latest in a series of crude and heavy-handed attempts to intimidate Malaysian civil society activists and other human rights defenders. 

“They must be released immediately and unconditionally, and tomorrow’s rally must be allowed to go ahead peacefully,” Josef Benedict, Amnesty International’s deputy director for South-east Asia and the Pacific region, said in a statement.

He described all the activists taken in by the police today as “prisoners of conscience”.

“They must be allowed to exercise their rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association peacefully without any interference, threats or harassment from officials or non-state actors seeking to provoke unrest,” he added.

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