Democracy is about giving space for all to express themselves peacefully — Bersih 2.0

MARCH 10 — The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih 2.0) refers to the statement by de facto Islamic Affairs Minister Mujahid Rawa who accused some quarters of abusing the democratic space by using the Women’s March on 9th March to defend LGBT rights.

Bersih 2.0 wishes to remind Mujahid that democracy is about allowing all quarters to express their views and concerns in a peaceful way, including gathering peacefully. By Article 10 of the Federal Constitution, every citizen has a right to freedom of speech, expression, peaceful assembly and form associations.

One needs 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.

Bersih 2.0 supports equality, non-discrimination and the freedom enshrined by the Federal Constitution for all to express themselves peaceably. Since May 9 we have witnessed the anti-ICERD, ‘Melayu bangkit’, ‘defend Prophet Mohamad’ and other gatherings. We commend the PH government for allowing and facilitating such gatherings without intimidation.

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 is also appalled that Mujahid said that the Women’s March rally did not have a permit because the notice to hold the rally was submitted less than 10 days before it was held and that the organisers will be investigated under Section 9 of the Peaceful Assembly Act 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.

We call on Malaysians and the PH government to reflect deeply on the matter of democratic space and take this opportunity to discuss concerns raised by those who hold protests and to affirm civility in our society.

Released by: Steering Committee of Bersih 2.0

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.