KUALA LUMPUR, March 16 ― Politicians from Pakatan Harapan (PH) and PAS who verbally attacked the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) minority community in Malaysia are showing cowardice, prominent lawyer Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan said today.
Currently a commissioner of the International Commission of Jurists, she also reminded the federal government that the law gives equal protection to everyone, even the LGBT community which is marginalised and vulnerable due to the discrimination and hate directed against them here.
Ambiga, who is formerly a member of the government’s Institutional Reforms Committee, said it was horrifying to hear PAS and even PH MPs pour vitriol on the LGBT community on Thursday.
“Are they proud of the way they attacked a minority community with their non-scientific based views, thus exposing them to more violence and hate?
“But then, it is easy to attack a minority group. That is not courage. That is cowardice,” she said in a stinging statement as she tore into politicians who tried to score political points with voters at the expense of the vulnerable LGBT community.
“I urge all leaders who condemn LGBT persons to consider this ― you do not have to agree with the LGBT community or approve of them. But as leaders you do have a duty to ensure their safety and to protect their fundamental rights,” she said.
“It is easy to beat up on minority communities who are unable to fight back. What takes courage and leadership is to fight for their fundamental liberties even if you disagree with them,” she added.
Ambiga claimed that some PH leaders were behaving like bullies instead of responsible leaders, where they allegedly not only fail to protect the weak but further endanger them with discriminatory remarks.
Calling for the police to stop probing the organisers of the Women's Day march which featured demands against violence or discrimination towards LGBT persons, Ambiga also gave PH leaders a tip on what to say if they are questioned by the public on this issue.
“We are aware that there are many who may not personally approve of the LGBT community. However, everyone is entitled to equal protection of the law. The Federal Constitution does not discriminate on the grounds of gender or sexual identity. This government will not tolerate any form of violence against any person. Every human being deserves to live free from fear,” she suggested to the PH leaders.
While saying that Malaysians want the PH government which it voted in to succeed, Ambiga noted that they must show leadership on tough issues by relying on the rule of law and using a rights-based approach.
“If they do not, then they are no better than the previous government who, at least, did not pretend that they cared about minority rights and the rule of law,” she said.
Ambiga listed examples of how the local LGBT community has to grapple with threats to their welfare and lives, including the murder of transgender people with victims found with signs of having undergone extreme violence or torture; a Penang teenager who died in 2017 after being assaulted for being effeminate; accounts of transgender women being arrested and forced to strip naked; and LGBT persons facing discrimination at workplaces and at hospitals.
Even as the LGBT minority in Malaysia copes with such challenges, Muslims who are a minority in New Zealand yesterday faced the horror of being gunned down while preparing for Friday prayers at two mosques in Christchurch by a man who has been described in the media as a white supremacist and a terrorist.
Ambiga expressed sadness at the mosque attacks that took the lives of 49 people and injured another 48 to date, including two Malaysians, one who is critical after being shot in the spine.
“While writing this article, I read with overwhelming sadness of the Christchurch massacre. Heinous crimes of hate such as these are no less acts of terror and must be condemned in the strongest terms.
“May the lives lost in this senseless violence rest in peace and may those who were hurt recover speedily. This is a crime upon all of humanity,” she said.
* A previous version of this story contained an error which has since been corrected.