KUCHING, March 28 — A group of 28 civil society, political parties and individuals today called for the abolition of the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012 (PAA) as a core element of Sarawak’s political emancipation in the spirit of the Malaysia Agreement 1963.
“Of late there have been more frequent calls by various parties including the human rights body, Suhakam for the revision and even repeal of the Act,” the group said in a joint statement.
They said Suhakam viewed the delay in implementing the proposed reforms by the Pakatan Harapan (PH) as giving the perception that it is not serious about the reforms.
“In Sarawak, there is an added dimension of complexity when we talk about fundamental freedoms, and in this case the freedom of expression, to assemble and to associate under Article 10 of the Federal Constitution,” they said.
The group added that initiatives to open democratic spaces for discussion of pressing issues affecting Sarawakians’ interests and welfare are relegated to something of less importance than ‘getting back Sarawak’s rights’ with Putrajaya.
“This is not surprising nor new as political subjugation or domination of Sarawak in the then Barisan Nasional-ruled Malaysia was not just confined to erosion of powers and resources belonging to the state but also the curtailing of civil and political rights.
“As civil society actors we believe that rebuilding an inclusive Malaysia based on the true spirit of the Malaysia Agreement 1963 must also include full attainment of civil and political rights enjoyed by Sarawakians and other Malaysians,” they said.
The group brought up a recent episode faced by the organisers of “Chat with Rise of Sarawak Efforts (ROSE) forum on “Youth and Employment in Sarawak: Opportunities and Challengers” at a shopping mall in Kota Samarahan which was stopped by the police just before it was due to begin.
They said the excuse was that the organisers had failed to apply for a permit from the police as required by PAA.
“PAA is proven to be part of the draconian control imposed by the authorities whether at the federal, state or both levels to deny Sarawakians as Malaysian citizens the right to deliberate and form opinions on issues pertinent to their welfare.
“Surely the transfer of more power and resources from Kuala Lumpur to Kuching must be accompanied by political emancipation of ordinary Sarawakians to freely and without fear discuss and participate in issues that affect our daily lives,” they stressed.
The group said politicians should be accountable to the people, adding that any objection to the political emancipation of ordinary Sarawakians will be declared as undoubtedly hijacking the cause of Sarawak autonomy, for authoritarian and kleptocratic rule.
Among those who issued the statement were Angkatan Belia Islam Malaysia Sarawak, Jaringan Orang Asal SeMalaysia, Movement for Change Sarawak, Parti Bansa Dayak Sarawak Baru and State Reform Party.