The Police must uphold the constitutional right of all Malaysians to assemble peacefully and the frequent use of high handed measures by the Police to disrupt public gatherings is most deplorable

Joint Media Statement
Fong Kui Lun, Ngeh Koo Ham, Teh Hock Ke, Low Wai Hong, Ning San, Liew Chin Tong

(Kuala Lumpur,  Monday): The six of us were arrested on 1 March 2005 at Dataran Merdeka when the DAP launched the “Return the Third Vote – Restore Local Government Elections” campaign. Today, we gather here to report to the Police as our bail expires. 

At the launch, balloons were supposed to be released to symbolize the start of the year-long national campaign to free local authorities from the shackle of inefficiency, corruption and mismanagement which has it roots in the lack of democracy and grass-root participation at the local level. Exactly 40 years ago, the then Alliance government, predecessor of Barisan Nasional, suspended local government elections at the height of Malaysia’s konfrontasi with Indonesia. Local elections have never been resumed ever since.


It is ridiculous that the Police regard the release of balloons to call for elected local government as dangerous as bombs in Indonesia, which led to our arrest. Worse still, we were arrested when the Police forcefully dispersed a press conference! Since when has Malaysia degraded to a situation that only exists in authoritarian countries where even listening to a press conference is considered illegal? What had occurred show that something is very wrong about the democratic mindset and commitment in Malaysia - which can only make Malaysian democracy a laughing-stock in the world.


Article 10 of Federal Constitution stipulates that “all citizens have the right to assemble peaceably and without arms”. It is a constitutional right of all Malaysians to gather peacefully in our civic space and to express ourselves openly.


As an institution of the state tasked to enforce the law, the Police must be reminded that their job descriptions include upholding the fundamental human rights of all Malaysians, as stipulated in the Federal Constitution and other international charters, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.


In this regard, the forceful and high-handed manner in which the Police, with the use of tear gas and water cannon, dispersed a small and orderly anti-war gathering in front of the U.S. Embassy yesterday is most deplorable. The protest was part of a worldwide campaign calling an end to U.S. occupation of Iraq.


It is time the Police be more “human rights sensitive” and end all forms of high-handed measures to disrupt peaceful assemblies.


* Fong Kui Lun (DAP MP for Bukit Bintang), Ngeh Koo Ham (ADUN for Setiawan and Leader of the Opposition in the Perak State Assembly), Teh Hock Ke (DAP Perak State Organising Secretary), Low Wai Hong (Asst. to Bukit Bintang MP), Ning San (DAP Paramount Branch Chairman) and Liew Chin Tong (DAP Research Officer)