With the passing of a slew of draconian legislations and state prosecutions in recent years, Bersih 2.0 expects Suhakam to be in the forefront.
Bersih 2.0 reminded new Suhakam chairman Razali Ismail that the human rights body was mandated to protect and promote human rights, including the right to hold peaceful assemblies.
“It should defend human rights,” said the NGO in a statement. “Malaysia should be able to proudly take its place among the democratic nations in the world.”
The statement pointed out that the people who came out for Bersih rallies were patriotic, peaceful and disciplined.
Tens of thousands were also determined enough to sacrifice the comforts of their beds and slept on the streets of Kuala Lumpur during Bersih 4.
“Many didn’t wash or shower for two days,” said Bersih 2.0. “They did it because they want to see a government free from corruption. They want free and fair elections.
“They wanted to assert their right to dissent, uphold parliamentary democracy and save the economy from ruination.”
The people deserve praise, not ridicule, the statement continued.
Bersih 2.0 was following up on comments by Razali on Sunday. He urged Bersih 2.0 not to take to the streets to make known its demands.
The NGO expressed dismay that Razali chose not to defend the fundamental right to participate in peaceful assembly as enshrined under Article 10 of the Federal Constitution. Instead, lamented the statement, Razali made disparaging and inaccurate remarks about the people who turned up for Bersih rallies.
Contrary to Razali’s claim that Bersih rallies “damaged a lot of properties”, said the NGO, Suhakam had monitored the rallies. It had consistently concluded that the second and third rallies turned violent only after police used “excessive force” to disperse peaceful protesters.
“The police fired tear gas, water cannons and beat protesters,” Bersih 2.0 quoted Suhakam as saying.
“The human rights body said the resulting chaos and property damage cannot be attributed to the organizer or protesters.”
Bersih 2.0 also took exception to Razali saying that it dirtied the surroundings of venues by holding rallies.
It made arrangements for rubbish to be collected, sorted and disposed throughout a 34-hour rally, for example. The NGO claims it left Dataran Merdeka in Kuala Lumpur, and its surroundings, cleaner than before it started.