Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Malaysian Bar, Hats Off to You.

Just as I was about to leave for court at lunchtime today for RPK's Sedition Trial, i received a call from a friend saying the proceedings had ended for the day and would continue tomorrow morning. In a way, this has created some room for me to blog. In the light of the recent arrests of the Bersih/Anti ISA vigilors, the Malaysian Bar have come out strong again, reiterating the need to respect democratic rights of citizens. The Bar have also, in a verry consistent manner, condemned any action that compromises democracy. Below is the Press Release by Ragunath Kesavan, Vice-President of the Malaysian Bar.

Malaysian Bar's Press Release: Respect the Right to Peaceful Assembly

Freedom of assembly and freedom of expression were again dealt a severe blow yesterday with the arrest of 23 citizens – including journalists and activists, a Member of Parliament, State Assemblypersons and a City Councillor – who were participants in a peaceful gathering to commemorate the first anniversary of last year's BERSIH rally.

The Bar Council is alarmed at the disproportionate and heavy-handed approach adopted by the police, who purportedly began dispersing people as early as an hour before the start of the vigil. Needless physical force was allegedly used during the arrests, causing injuries to a number of participants. Such unprovoked intimidation and oppression is unjustifiable as the group was reportedly calm, did not pose any threat to public order and was merely exercising its democratic rights.

While the Bar Council disagrees with the laws curtailing the right to assemble and express dissent, we are concerned that the authorities seem to use these laws selectively to disperse and arrest demonstrators. Several demonstrations against the Pakatan Rakyat government's policies in Penang and Selangor have proceeded without much harassment nor arrests by the police.

This gives rise to the perception that police actions are not based on any objective criteria relating to preservation of public order. Such subjectivity breeds the notion that the authorities act in a biased, or even arbitrary, manner.

We call on the police to protect the rights of speech, expression and assembly of all those who legitimately engage in expressing dissent, fairly and without bias.

Ragunath Kesavan
Malaysian Bar

We should also note a special thank you to the Bar Council for their swift action in sending some members of the Bar to the PJ Police Headquarters immediately after the arrests of the vigilors, to assist them through the police procedures. You have shown that you indeed walk the talk. To Ambiga & Co, hats off!

by Argus Eye.

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