Government steps up attacks on democratic and human rights to maintain grip on power
The BN (National Front) government, dominated by UMNO (United Malay National Organisation), is going all out, including by using repression and intimidation, to strengthen its position in the next general election expected soon – either this year or early next year. It was alarmed by the unprecedented victories in the 2008 general election of the opposition Pakatan Rakyat (People’s Coalition) which denied them their two-thirds majority after almost four decades in power. In that election, the Pakatan Rakyat capitalised on the momentum created by the rallies organised by BERSIH (Coalition for Fair and Clean Elections), which demanded clean and fair elections, and by HINDRAF (Hindu Rights Action Force) which demanded rights for the Indian minority in November 2007, to weaken BN support. Now, to suppress similar attempts, BN is going all out to stop a repeat of the same process, in order to continuously sustain its more than 50 years in power since independence from British rule in 1957.
BERSIH, which is comprised of NGOs and ’civil society’ groups, is supported by opposition parties. Two weeks ago, with the new tag ’BERSIH 2.0’, it launched the ‘Walk for Democracy’ which is planned to take place on 9th July in Kuala Lumpur. They argued that they took this decision after the failure of the Malaysian Election Commission to reform the electoral process which all this time has been favorable to the ruling parties. It was also in protest against the rampant ’money politics’ and irregularities used by the ruling parties in the Sarawak State Election this April and in the by-elections in other places since the last general election. Therefore, BERSIH put forward the following demands: automatic voter registration; reforms to postal voting; use of indelible ink; access to the mainstream media for opposition parties; a minimum campaign period of 21 days; independence of institutions such as the Election Commission, Police etc; and an end to electoral graft (’money politics’).
Why and how the crackdown?
The government crackdown started when the PSM (Socialist Party of Malaysia) launched its campaign last weekend called ‘Enough BN, Retire Now!’. The police arrested around 30 supporters of PSM with the charge that they are reviving the ‘communism’ of the Malaysian Communist Party (MCP). They confiscated t-shirts carrying the pictures and names of MCP leaders. This is merely a desperate and brutal attempt of the government to victimise the PSM, accusing the detainees of ’waging war against the King’ and trying to discourage people from joining the BERSIH rally. The PSM has also reported that, ‘During visits to the detainees they reported that they were being harassed and mentally tortured. Currently the detainees are being questioned intensively by officers from the Police Headquarters in KL. They are also denied theirs rights by putting them in solitary confinement; denying legal representatives; denying medication; use of inhumane, demoralising and foul language; and denying sufficient drinking water”. Now news has come of six leading members of the PSM who were due to be released today have been re-arrested and detained again under the Emergency Ordinance by which they can be detained for 60 days without trial.
The CWI is strongly opposed to all the attacks on human and democratic rights being unashamedly and inhumanly carried out by the Malaysian government. As socialists, we see the attacks on ’communism’ as an attempt to undermine the ideas of genuine socialism which many are looking to as the alternative to the anarchy of global capitalism that has been continuously undermining the needs and rights of the working class, of youth and others oppressed by the system. We support the public ownership, democratic workers’ control and management of society by the working class, youth and others oppressed in society to meet their fundamental rights and needs.
While we do not support one-party dictatorships and the undemocratic nature of Stalinist or Maoist countries, past and present, (including Cuba, North Korea etc.) with their distorted idea of ‘communism’ or socialism, we defend the progressive planned economy as in Cuba that benefits the ordinary people. We also have a critical approach towards the ideas,
strategies, tactics and the programme of the MCP. (Read the analysis on the MCP: http://www.socialistworld.net/doc/1604).
At the same time as condemning the PSM’s support for communists, hypocritically, the Malaysian government has strong links with the undemocratic, one-party ‘communist’ regime in China, which holds its working class, youth and poor in subjection, simply because Malaysian capitalism is benefiting.
The government is organising the arrest of PSM supporters, linking it to ‘communism’ and the MCP. Trumpeting it in the mainstream press and media controlled by them is fear tactics to merely threaten and discredit the BERSIH rally. The police, under the instruction of the government, has also detained, threatened and intimidated opposition supporters or whoever tries to promote the BERSIH rally. The government has also threatened to use the draconian ISA (Internal Security Act) or Emergency Ordinance, under which the police can detain anybody as well as threaten to mobilise military force to counter the rally. It does not even rule out the use of a court order to close off the planned area of the rally.
Although the Malaysian government has signed up to the United Nations Commission for Human Rights (UNCHR), the current attacks on human rights, including on freedom of association, freedom of expression/speech and freedom to peaceful protest/demonstration shows the inconsistent and hypocrital position of the government of Malaysia. They are willing to use any means to be in power.
The government is indirectly using PERKASA, the far right group which has been propagating the hegemony of Malays and attacking the rights of non-Malays and also a section of the UMNO youth to stage a counter rally to disrupt and undermine the BERSIH rally on 9th July.
Fight policies geared to profit
The Malaysia government has been demonstrating these inhumane and undemocratic characteristics to merely act as a buffer for the capitalist system to maximise the profit of multinational and national capitalists by scape-goating the fundamental rights and needs of the working class and youth in this country. The devastation and inconsistency in global capitalism and its economy, has affected the export dependent economy of Malaysia. The next period will see the government taking more measures in the name of cutting public spending and reducing the economic deficit to further burden the working class and youth socially and economically if the economic uncertainties are prolonged. Although the struggle for democratic gains is essential but it should be linked to the struggle for basic social and economic gains for genuine change in the life of the ordinary people. This cannot be achieved under the pro-capitalist policies that prioritise saving the profits of a few capitalists by any means popssible. The alternative must be public ownership of the main sectors of the economy and the involvement of the working class and young people in the democratic planning of the economy and society – democratic socialism.
We ask all those who can to send protests like the ones carried below, and to support us in our fight for:
1) The immediate release of all the detained PSM and BERSIH supporters and the dropping of all charges against them. Stop all the harassment, arrest and intimidation being used as a method to scare and demobilise the opposition.
2) The just and democratic demands of BERSIH for fair and clean elections to be fulfilled and the peaceful demonstrations planned on 9th July to be allowed to go ahead.
3) The working class and youth of Malaysia to build the necessary unity to oppose the capitalist nature of Malaysia and fight for democratic socialism – for genuine democracy and the fundamental social, economic and political gains as a major step towards building a socialist society in Malaysia as well as internationally.
Model protest letter
Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib bin Tun Abdul Razak,
Prime Minister of Malaysia,
Inspector-General of Police
Tan Sri Ismail Omar,
Fax: +603 2272 5613
Tan Sri Hasmy Agam,
Chair Malaysian Human Rights Commission,
Fax: ++603 2612 5620
We have learned of the disgraceful treatment of 30 activists of the Socialist Party of Malaysia (PSM) detained during a peaceful protests in Penang. We see that six have been released and re-arrested under under the Emergency Ordinance. We have seen intimidation against BERSIH supporters as ell.
This we believe is part of the government crackdown on BERSIH supporters and organisers to stop the ‘WALK FOR DEMOCRACY’ rally planned for 9th July. BERSIH (which means CLEAN) was launched to demand reform in the electoral process that is at present favourable to ruling governments. BERSIH, which is comprised of NGOs and other groups, and is supported by oppositions parties, has put forward the following demands:- automatic voter registration; reforms to postal voting; use of indelible ink; access to the mainstream media for opposition parties; a minimum election campaign period of 21 days; independence of institutions such as Election Commission, police etc. and an end to electoral graft (money politics).
We strongly condemn your government for using harassment, arrest and intimidation as a method to try and silence opposition to anti-democratic, anti-poor and anti-working class policies of your government.
1)All the PSM supporters as well as the BERSIH supporters are immediately released and all charges against them dropped.
2)The just and democratic demands of BERSIH should be granted.
3)Allow the peaceful demonstrations planned on 9th July
4)Stopped all the harassment, arrest and intimidation as a method to threaten and intimidate political opposition
Please keep us informed of the situation with regard to these demands and the situation with the detainees. If they are not released forthwith, we will take the matter further and publicise it internationally.
Copies to Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Geneva
Mr. Frank La Rue
Special Rapporteur on promotion and protection of right to freedom of opinion and expression
Ms. Margaret Sekaggya
Special Rapporteur on the situation on human rights defenders
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
Human Rights Officer, OHCHR Asia Pacific Section, Asia Pacific and Middle East Branch,
Parti Sosialis Malaysia