Investigated for #KitaLawan, Bersih chief insists on Malaysians’ assembly rights

Demonstrators shout slogans outside the Masjid Jamek LRT station during the #KitaLawan rally in Kuala Lumpur March 7, 2015. — Picture by Syed Jaymal Zahiid
Demonstrators shout slogans outside the Masjid Jamek LRT station during the #KitaLawan rally in Kuala Lumpur March 7, 2015. — Picture by Syed Jaymal Zahiid

KUALA LUMPUR, April 28 — Bersih 2.0 chief Maria Chin Abdullah said Malaysians were now locked in a struggle for their constitutional rights to expression and assembly, after she turned up for a police investigation today into her role in a #KitaLawan rally two months ago.

The head of the electoral reform group said she is not the only one who is facing police action, pointing out that many other activists have been arrested and quizzed by the police.

“We, civil society and social activists, are struggling to make Malaysia a more democratic society. Our right to be on the streets and to express our opinions, to have engagement with our government, those are actually our rights,” she said, also noting that today is the third anniversary of the Bersih 3.0 sit-in protest for electoral reform.

“It’s very arbitrary, very selective persecution of social activists and this deserves condemnation by all Malaysians,” she told reporters before going in to the Dang Wangi police station with her lawyer Honey Tan.

Maria Chin said the police had contacted her two weeks ago to inform her that she was being investigated over a #KitaLawan rally at the capital city’s Sogo area on February 28.

It is still unknown what law will be used to investigate Maria Chin, who is also the head of women’s group Empower.

Representatives from civil society including rights group Proham and the Joint Action Group for Gender Equality (JAG) coalition for 10 women’s group were present in support of Maria Chin.

“We refuse to cower to intimidation tactics used to stifle our voice. We stand with Maria Chin Abdullah,” JAG representative Yu Ren Chung said.

Yu said Maria was merely exercising her right to freedom of expression and assembly as guaranteed under the Constitution, urging Putrajaya to stop harassing human rights defenders and to “walk the talk” on supporting human rights.

#KitaLawan secretariat member Akmal Nasir told reporters that all the group’s past rallies had ended peacefully, saying that the alleged intimidation will only serve to boost their spirits to exercise their assembly rights.

Akmal said the planned #KitaLawan rally this Friday against the Goods and Services Tax will go on even if there are arrests or stern warnings before the gathering.

The police have been arresting opposition leaders and activists in an ever widening dragnet over the #KitaLawan rallies that were held to pressure for the release of jailed Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

Shah Alam MP Khalid Samad from PAS was even arrested last month in the dead of night at 3.20am in the #KitaLawan sweep.

Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar has defended the arrests, saying last month that while the police respect freedom of speech and expression, there will be no “compromise” against those who cause public unrest.

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