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MALAYSIA – No more police violence, no more ISA!

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anti-isa.jpgFORUM-ASIA strongly condemns the abusive method used by the Malaysian police force to disperse peaceful demonstrators against the draconian Internal Security Act (ISA) on 1 August 2009 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
anti-isa.jpg(Bangkok, 14 August 2009) The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) strongly condemns the abusive method used by the Malaysian police force to disperse peaceful demonstrators against the draconian Internal Security Act (ISA) on 1 August 2009 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
The crackdown resulted in 438 individuals, including women and juveniles being arrested (according to SUARAM, FORUM-ASIA member in Malaysia urgent appeal on 1 August). All were released on 3 August, except for 29, who were charged for illegal assembly (16 persons) and breaching the Societies Act (13 persons).
FORUM-ASIA finds it most disappointing that Malaysia, with its current role as the member of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), has not made any serious efforts to comply with the recommendation of the Universal Periodic Review in 2009 to repeal the "Internal Security Act and the Emergency Public Order and Preventive Ordinance in accordance with its international human rights obligations, and in the meantime refrain from applying them to political activists, journalists or others engaged in peaceful activities".
What is more unacceptable is the fact that instead of respecting the rights of Malaysian citizens to gather peacefully to express their views against the most dreaded ISA in accordance with the Federal Constitution, the government has ordered the police to fire 75 rounds of tear gas and water cannon on the 20,000 odd protestors, who included senior citizens, women, youths under 18 years of age and tourists, who happened to be shopping and sightseeing around the area where the peaceful rallies were held.
These acts of violence were premeditated by the government as only a day before the protest (31 July), Malaysian Security Forces were deployed to prevent the peaceful gathering. Authorities set up roadblocks across Kuala Lumpur to deter the demonstrators from trying to reach the city center, sparking massive traffic jams. Hundreds of riot police backed by trucks mounted with water cannons stood outside train station and shopping mall where the demonstrators had arranged to gather.
Malaysia claims it is a modern and developing country. The Malaysian Prime Minister, Dato' Sri Mohd Najib bin Tun Abdul Razak has recently launched the concept of 1Malaysia where citizens, regardless of race, religion and social status are to be treated equally with justice and fairness. However, the government's action against peaceful protestors against an ancient law which defies the essence of natural justice and human rights as it provides for detention without trial shows that the concept is merely a public relations exercise.
If the government is truly interested in realizing 1Malaysia, it is the authorities' duty to respond to citizens views with respect, promoting dialogue and engagement instead of punishment. Freedom of _expression and peaceful assembly are rights guaranteed under the Federal Constitution and it is the obligation of the government to ensure the right of its citizen to peaceful assembly through positive measures, such as making available public spaces for rallies and proper traffic control.
In view of the above, FORUM-ASIA has issued an open letter to the Prime Minister (.pdf) to urge the government to abolish the controversial laws.
FORUM-ASIA also strongly urge the government to immediately drop the charges of illegal assembly and breach of Societies Act against the 29 individuals. It is hoped that the Malaysian government remembers its role in ensuring rights under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and apply it to the State before its role and position in the United Nations is questioned.

Also related:
1 August, SUARAM (FORUM-ASIA member)
URGENT APPEAL: Police using teargas and chemical-laced water cannons at anti-ISA rally in KL. Around 300 arrested!
6 August, SUARAM Memorandum to SUHAKAM on Himpunan Mansuh ISA
14 August, Malaysia – Thai civil society condemns ISA, crackdown on freedom of expression