Bersih 2.0 urges Mujahid against restricting speech, encouraging hate and discrimination

Demonstrators take part in a march in conjunction with International Women's Day in Kuala Lumpur March 9, 2018. ― Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
Demonstrators take part in a march in conjunction with International Women's Day in Kuala Lumpur March 9, 2018. ― Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

KUALA LUMPUR, March 10 — Elections watchdog Bersih 2.0 today expressed concern that the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community will face further hate and discrimination after a critical remark by minister Datuk Seri Mujahid Yusof Rawa.

The group also chided the minister in charge of religious affairs of trying to restrict democratic spaces, after the latter accused LGBT supporters of allegedly abusing the democratic space offered to the Women’s March Malaysia yesterday.

“It was reported that one of the five key demands of the Women’s March yesterday was to end violence based on gender and sexual orientation. We are concerned that with the posture taken by Mujahid and various politicians and groups, it would encourage further hate and discrimination against the LGBT community.

“Every person has a right to protection from violence and discrimination under the law. To demand for such protection is different from promoting a certain lifestyle, sexual orientation or ideology,” Bersih 2.0 said in a statement.

The march, which was aimed at pushing for the protection of the rights of women and minorities, went beyond the championing of issues such as the defence of the LGBT community’s rights.

The five official demands of the march are for the end of violence based on gender and sexual orientation; end of child marriages; the protection of the rights and freedom of women to make choices over their own body and lives; a minimum wage of RM1,800; and the destruction of patriarchy.

The march included participation from groups such as the Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO), Sisters in Islam (SIS), and political party Socialist Party of Malaysia (PSM).

In its statement, Bersih 2.0 also reminded the first-term minister on the need to allow all quarters of the society to express their views in a peaceful manner, pointing out that such practice is the essential bedrock of a democratic nation.

“By Article 10 of the Federal Constitution, every citizen has a right to freedom of speech, expression, peaceful assembly and form associations. One need not agree with all the views expressed or issues championed but one should seek to listen and understand even if after doing so, one disagrees.

“As a minister of a democratic government, Mujahid should not restrict or condemn any groups that wish to highlight their concerns,” it added.

Stressing on equality, Bersih 2.0 also pointed out and praised how the current Pakatan Harapan (PH) government had previously facilitated and allowed several rallies organised by the far-right agenda movers, such as the anti-ICERD rally, as well as protests to defend Prophet Muhammad, following insensitive social media comments.

Bersih 2.0 also reminded Mujahid about PH’s practice to abolish the Peaceful Assembly Act (PAA) 2012.

“We wish to remind the minister that PH has promised to abolish draconian provisions in the PAA and Penal Code on peaceful assembly. The constitutionality of Section 9 is surely in question and should not be used against peaceful demonstrators,” it added.

Yesterday, Dang Wangi district police chief Asst Comm Shaharuddin Abdullah reportedly said that no permit was issued for the march as the organisers gave less than 10 days’ of advance notice.

Shaharuddin was reported saying that the police will investigate the organisers under Section 9 of the PAA.

Following the repeal of Section 27 of the Police Act and the introduction of the PAA, organisers of peaceful assemblies no longer need to obtain a police permit, but have to give advance notice of 10 days of the gathering to the police.

* A previous version of this story contained an error which has since been corrected.