Women’s Day march organisers probed for sedition, illegal assembly

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, Mar 14 — The organisers of the International Women’s Day (IWD) march, which was held in the city on Saturday, said they are being investigated by the police under the Peaceful Assembly Act 9 (5) and Sedition Act 4 (1).

In a statement today, the group said they will continue to cooperate with the police despite the use of repressive laws.

“Organisers of the International Women’s Day march have been summoned by the Dang Wangi Criminal Investigation Division regarding the event held in Kuala Lumpur on 9 March.

“The organisers are being investigated under the Peaceful Assembly Act 9 (5) and Sedition Act 4 (1) and will comply with the process despite these laws being unfairly and disproportionately used against us,” the statement read.

Social activist Juana Jaafar had on Twitter raised the concern that the organisers hauled for questioning were investigated under the said laws.

“That’s right. Kerajaan Malaysia Baru whips out Sedition Act on human rights defenders, AGAIN,” she wrote.

The organisers of the rally said that they had had open and cordial communication with the police at all stages of the march and were accessible to be called in for questioning.

They said contrary to the statement made by Dang Wangi deputy police chief, Superintendent Rudy Abdullah on Tuesday, the IWD organising committee remained open and collaborative with the police.

The committee claimed that Rudy’s statement gave the public the impression that they had acted like a guilty party avoiding the police.

“The sudden and escalated strong-armed response by the state is unwarranted, alarming and without basis.

“The organisers have maintained open and cordial communication with the police at all stages of the march — from its planning, during the march and even in the subsequent heavy-handed response by the state after the march.

“We continue to be accessible to the police, including acknowledging and accepting their request for us to be questioned,” the committee said in a statement, today.

The organising committee said public statements by police, politicians and various parties had mischaracterised the march as an “illegal LGBT assembly”, which had caused multiple forms of backlash and had shifted the focus away from the five demands made on the day.

“We also would like to make clear that the International Women’s Day march was not ‘tainted’ or ‘hijacked’ by the LGBT+ community as claimed by certain quarters. We are steadfast in our stand that the human rights of all communities in Malaysia must be upheld and protected.

“We remain committed in the five demands, which to this date, have received little or no engagement by the state,” the statement read.

On Monday, Deputy Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Tan Sri Noor Rashid Ibrahim said the organisers were called up to provide statements on the proceedings of the event.

He said under Section 9(5) of the Peaceful Assembly Act (PAA), any party that does not inform the officer in charge of police district (OCPD) that they are holding a gathering or demonstration has committed an offence.

The participants on the gathering held in Kuala Lumpur had included members of Women’s Aid Organisation and Sisters in Islam, activists, students and various people from all across Malaysia.