With general elections scheduled for 2013, the Malaysian government is trying desperately to muzzle any form of opposition.
The Coalition for Free and Fair Elections, created in 2006 and known under the name of Bersih, has launched a new campaign, Bersih 2, with the aim of changing the electoral law before the elections. The coalition is made up of 62 non-governmental organisations of civil society and supported by opposition political parties. Bersih 2 has an eight point program which demands notably a three week electoral campaign, verification of the electoral lists, the prevention of fraud, proportional access to the media, and an end to corruption.
Bersih 2 has found a growing echo among the public and it called for a demonstration on Saturday July 9. The government did all it could to prevent this demonstration, banning it, arresting more than 200 activists and preventing of thousands of demonstrators from getting to Kuala Lumpur. Nonetheless, more than 50,000 people joined the demonstration. The police arrested more than 1,600 marchers after having dispersed the peaceful demonstration with water cannon and tear gas. All were subsequently released.
As is the case with many authoritarian regimes, the Arab revolutions have struck fear into the heart of a government whose main party, the UMNO, has lead the country uninterruptedly since independence in 1957. It wants to prevent any extension of the campaign Bersih 2 in the manner of the first campaign, launched in 2007, which was followed in 2008 by an unprecedented electoral defeat for the ruling coalition and the UMNO.
Meanwhile, the government has arrested 30 activists of the PSM (Parti Socialis Malaysia) who distributed leaflets in the context of their campaign “Enough already, retire now”. Six of them, including a federal member of parliament, were detained. An Emergency Ordinance authorises the government to hold them in isolation in extremely harsh conditions for 60 days without charge. Their lawyers and families have very limited visiting rights.
The PSM has launched an international campaign for their immediate and unconditional release. You can contribute by:
Signing the online petition;
Sending letters by mail to the authorities. A model letter is given below:
We write to you concerning the detention of Member of Parliament Sungai Siput Dr Jeyakumar Devaraj and 29 members of the Parti Sosialis Malaysia who have been detained in Penang.
They have been charged for attempting to revive the Communist Party and waging war against the King. These are extreme charges especially when there is no shred of evidence to support this.
We understand that they are being held under deplorable conditions which are not acceptable especially when Malaysia sits on the UN Human Rights Council.
As such we urge your good self to intervene in this matter and seek your assistance to facilitate their immediate release.
Thank you for your attention in this matter.
YAB Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak
Prime Minister, Malaysia
Office of The Prime Minister,
Main Block, Perdana Putra Building,
Federal Government Administrative Centre,
62502 Putrajaya, MALAYSIA
Tel : 603-8888 8000
Fax : 603-8888 3444
E-Mail : email@example.com
Tan Sri Ismail Omar
Inspector General Police
Ibu Pejabat Polis Diraja Malaysia,
50560 Bukit Aman,
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Tel: +603 2262 6015
Fax: +603 2272 5613