MUSA HITAM: An insight - Peaceful Demo & Assembly – the Maldives Experience; Laws should be adaptable; Nazri: Rule of Law Applies
This is a rather refreshing and insightful interview from a man who had been in charge of a few disturbances and had his “try” with the
His most notable quote is " Nothing is an absolute right in this world." and applies to the belief that all demos come to Violence. At a certain point of time yes, but things change and the old beliefs must be discarded.
He also mentioned the bad experiences (May 13, Memali & Baling) are always evoked whenever you talk about demonstrations. His advice - used as a basis in handling demonstrations, but it need not be used as excuses not to allow people to express their views.
And his suggestions contrast sharply with the de facto Law Minster stance and the usual stereotype responses when it comes to demos.
His latest reminder is:
“It does not matter whether you are pro-government or anti-government, the rule of law applies”= == = == = == == = == = == = =
Rights come with responsibilities; ANIZA DAMIS
IN the past three months, some Malaysians have suddenly found a passion for demonstrating. Some of these walks have resulted in arrests and allegations of criminal activity. But does this mean walking is bad altogether? In observance of International Human Rights Day tomorrow, ANIZA DAMIS speaks to founding former Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) chairman Tun Musa (ABOVE) Hitam about the rights and responsibilities that come with freedom of expression, and how we should try to allow it.
Q: Is peaceful assembly a right?
A: Peaceful assembly relates to the right to free expression, the right that is given to human beings to express their views. It also relates to freedom of the press, where you are given the right environment, the opportunity, and the freedom to express yourselves through the media. That can be extended to the electronic media and the Internet. Expression comes in different forms. It also relates to the right to demonstrate your feelings, by word or by act. Freedom in a democratic society is quite clear. People do have a right to demonstrate and they must be given the right. But such freedoms have been, and indeed have the possibility of being, exploited and used for objectives other than the democratic right and wishes of the people who want to express themselves within a democratic environment. One has always to be aware of that potential. In some countries, there is the existence of anarchists. Anarchists don’t believe in anything, they just want to destroy. If you realise the potential and accept the possibility of abuse and misuse, yet still demand the freedom to express yourself, then you would be suited to this form of democracy.
We have had experience of violence, like
Q: Is the right to peaceful assembly an absolute right?
A: No. Nothing is an absolute right in this world.
Q: Why is it that we have never experimented with peaceful assembly?
A: During the time I was with Suhakam, I tried my very best to get organised demonstrations accepted, organised in the sense that all parties assume responsibility together. I am an adviser to the government of
My God! They went to town with it! They started jabbering and cursing the president, and it ended up in riots. There were lots of riots. The president was getting angrier and angrier. One day, I said:
“Mr President, why don’t you try this: allow them to demonstrate, but keep the police away. Put them on standby alert. If possible, don’t let them be seen.” He was a little hesitant but I said: “Why don’t you try?” There is no better treat for criminal elements, especially anarchists, and those in politics who would benefit from violence, than the highly visible presence of police in or around the area where the demonstration is taking place. This will give them a definitive target. They carry stones and throw them at the policemen; they jeer at them and provoke them.
I said: “If you keep the police away and let the demonstrators shout themselves out for two or three hours, maybe everything will be all right. Please, why don’t you try this once, just once?” And, you know, they did.
On my next visit, I got feedback on the demonstration. They were angry, they threw some things at some shops, and they shouted themselves hoarse. After that, they dispersed. Nobody got arrested. The point is, it can be done.
Traffic and regular police will be there to ensure orderliness. At the same time, they must also make known that there will be riot police at hand, in case anything goes wrong. This agreement must be signed and sealed. If necessary, pass a law, or a by-law that relates to it. Then, people will get used to this culture.
Of course, it might not work. The authorities or the demonstrators might create trouble deliberately. But try this. Some experiments I tried during my tenure as Suhakam chairman showed that it could work.
Q: So what’s happened since you left (in 2002)?
A: They didn’t allow it.
A: Don’t ask me. I’m not in the government! When I had some influence and power, I could get it done.
Q: Is this something that Suhakam should do?
A: They should. A minor criticism about Suhakam is that, as of now, they don’t want to touch on these sensitive things. They don’t have to shout or make statements, they could go on a quiet trial, get things prepared. They could and should start activating this section of Suhakam to contribute to the orderliness and acceptability of demonstrations. If something happens, have a system of inquiry. Find the guilty one. This should be included in the by-laws. Why can’t we have such a system? I feel all this needs dialogue and an exchange of views of all stakeholders.
Q: The system right now is, if you want to assemble, you have to apply for a police permit.
A: And almost automatically it’s refused. So, you stop there.
Q: So, if it’s refused, the assembly is illegal?
A: Yes, it’s illegal.
Q: Some people feel there is a biased allocation of permits.
A: There are biased allocations, in so far as the applicants are concerned. In so far as the government is concerned, they say they are not biased.But therein lies the problem. Again, we’re back to where we started. If you have a focused examination of the situation, the ways and means, and formed a methodology or systematic approach, maybe it might work. The point I am trying to make is that it has never been tried. It is just dismissed automatically as something that is going to be a sure disaster. Psychologically, when you say “demonstration", you are sure there is going to be violence. It is in the psyche of the people, in the psyche of the police to begin with, and in the psyche of the demonstrators. They are ever ready for the police to attack them, and the police are ever ready to be attacked.
You cannot be like that.
I do know that even in the most developed countries, there have been riots. But the issues are different. In
Q: The government believes if you are unhappy, you should make an appointment with the government and tell them what’s wrong.
A: Let’s talk about the Indian problem. Incidentally, we’re all Malaysians. Their problem in this country is genuine. Of course, we have a party that claims to be representing the Indians, but obviously, they feel that they are not satisfied with the representation, and that the representation of the Indians are considered by them not to be effective. Obviously, they are desperate. And I know, in many cases, they have genuine grievances. Once they (irresponsible elements) take over there is no accountability, no responsibility and no legal legitimacy. And then, they were prepared to go to the absolutely ridiculous, criminal and irresponsible act of telling the world that we,
My point is that, try my method. Try, lah!
Q: Is the use of force justified in dispersing peaceful people?
A: If you had rules and regulations which include an investigation into a situation where violence takes place, immediately Suhakam, or whoever, must start an inquiry. Then the blame game can go there. Not here, in the newspapers or the blogs.
Q: In an illegal rally, is it justified to use force?
A: No, not by anybody.
The police will tell me, in many cases it is true, that they are provoked. But, like in the
A: Yes! Come on, we have been independent for 50 years.In the old days, after the demonstrations by the Indians, there would have been retaliation mmediately.
Q: By whom?
A: By Malays, maybe. No way could the Indians have avoided retaliation.I know there are rumours of plans (of retaliation). But the point is that now there is maturity, lots of talk in the press and the blogs. I think it’s healthy.
Q: So, what should the government’s next step be?
A: I just told you! Get organised! Or ask Suhakam to do it. Come up with a working paper, start with that.It’s not that this has never been attempted — we did — but this was in Tun Dr Mahathir’s time. This is Abdullah’s time, he’s more liberal, more open. People ask him to impose the ISA, he said it could be used but under specific circumstances. It’s so comforting when he says it; as against the old days.It’s necessary to make this comparison between the old days and the present.
I was at parliament speaking to the members of the Asean Inter-Parliamentary Caucus on Good Governance. Lim Kit Siang was chairing my speech. I got up and said: “What a nice sight. In the old days, there was no place, even in this international forum, for opposition leaders.” They all laughed. That’s change. I’m telling you, we are mature. Provided, that is, and I always have this qualification, that there is economic progress going on.
Of course, everybody has complaints. Malays have complaints. But the Tamils are such a minority and they don’t form an important force, so people don’t seem to pay too much attention to them. But they need this attention. This is a question of attitude. I am so happy that the prime minister actually directed the MIC to look into the matter. But they should not have been told by the prime minister. It should have been an on-going thing. Maybe they need to have a good, fresh look at themselves.
Q: You said earlier that rights come with responsibility. What if demonstrations impinged on other people’s rights?
A: I’m telling you, try my way. If advance notice is given, and routes are determined, orderliness is ensured, people are going say: “Look, there’s a demonstration. It’s going to pass through here. Come, let’s watch.”
It’s never been tried.
Every day, it comes out in the newspapers, businessmen saying: “This is not good for business, we lose a lot.” I know the tricks. The TV saying every day that Ini bukan budaya kita (this is not our culture). I’m sorry for ridiculing this, but where is there a budaya (culture) of violence anywhere in the world? Do you think violence is a French budaya? Indonesians? Filipinos? These are partisan expressions. It’s not an accusation, it’s a fact. If you follow my suggestion,
Q: Do you think the concept of the right to freedom of expression in
A: No. What about those people in Baling? They were not middle class. They were poor smallholders. You cannot dismiss people. We should not recognise them in order to arrest them. That’s negative. The right to peaceful assembly is enshrined in our democratic institution. That right also gives the right to the government to refuse. The thing at issue is not that the rights are not there. The rights exist. It is the application of the right and the administration of the right that I am taking issue with. This matter is an everyday affair, it is of interest to all political parties. They have one common interest, they want to express themselves on the one hand, and, in spirit, the government wants to allow them.
Q: Should the possibility of a riot justify depriving people of the right to be heard?
A: You say “the possibility". Once I accept this, the government authority will say: “There is a possibility of a riot.” Full stop. Rejected. The possibility of a non-riot, non-violence, has never been looked at. The rules and regulations to establish orderliness have never been tried. Tried — that’s the point. It could fail. But try it.This government and administration is very liberal and tolerant. But what is happening is that, the anti-government forces are pushing the government to see its limits.So the survival of liberalism and tolerance depends on the ability of all to contribute. It is in the interest of all to see that this liberalism and tolerance survive. It is in the interest of all.
Q: If the government doesn’t come up with a system, what would this say about human rights and about us?
A: The government has the right to say no. The government has a right to refuse. But if it does, I’ll be disappointed. Try, lah!
= == = =PREVIEW Coming next post.. soon
MORE PICS – 29 ARRESTED - Opposition Leaders, Activists & Bersih Protesters; Memo to Wan Azizah Instead of Speaker; Nazri’s Joke? – Arrest to protect MPs;
16 opposition MPs walked out During amendment Vote – 180 2/3 Majority
MORE PICS – 29 ARRESTED - Opposition Leaders, Activists & Bersih Protesters; Memo to Wan Azizah Instead of Speaker; Nazri’s Joke? – Arrest to protect MPs
16 opposition MPs walked out During amendment Vote – 180 2/3 Majority
Dewan Rakyat Passes Bill To Extend Retirement Age Of EC Members
Before the voting began at , 16 of the 19 opposition MPs walked out of the house, citing police action against five supporters of the Coalition for Free and Fair Elections (Bersih) as the reason. The three other opposition MPs -- Datin Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail (PKR-Permatang Pauh), Ismail Noh (PAS-Pasir Mas) and Abdul Fatah Harun (PAS-Rantau Panjang) -- did not attend the proceedings in the afternoon. Bersih supporters began to gather outside Parliament as early at to hand over a memorandum protesting the amendment to extend the retirement age of the EC members. After waiting for more than three hours, the group entered the premises of Parliament House and handed over the memorandum to Dr Wan Azizah, who is also president of Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR). Five members of the group were arrested as they stepped out of the gates of Parliament House.
In his winding-up speech, which took only 10 minutes, Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Aziz (ABOVE) said the arrests were necessary to ensure the safety of MPs. He said Bersih had the intention to interrupt parliamentary proceedings and disturb the peace as the presence of its supporters demanded police control of the access road to Parliament House.
Mohamed Nazri also said that he did not wish to give a long speech as enough had been said on the matter of extension of the retirement age of EC members, and that the opposition MPs were not around as well to hear what the government had to say. In tabling the bill earlier, on behalf of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, he said the amendment was in accordance with the extension of the retirement age, from 65 to 66, of the judges of the High Court, Court of Appeal and Federal Court in 2005.
Mohamed Nazri said EC members appointed after the amendment comes into force will retire upon attaining the age of 66 while the members appointed before the amendment comes into force have the option of retiring at 65 or 66.
The EC comprises a chairman, a deputy chairman and five ordinary members appointed by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong after consultation with the Conference of Rulers. The Dewan Rakyat adjourned at , one hour earlier than scheduled, soon after the bill was passed. It will sit again tomorrow, at .
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Opposition MPs stage walkout
Except for Datin Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail (Keadilan - Permatang Pauh), Abdul Fatah Haron (PAS - Rantau Panjang) and Ismail Noh (PAS - Pasir Mas) who were not present in the hall, the MPs walked out before Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz replied to debate with regards to the amendment. Earlier, in tabling the Bill for a second reading, Nazri said seeking to extend the retirement age of EC members was in accordance with the Government’s move to extend the retirement ages of the judiciary. He said the extension covered the EC chairman, his deputy and five other members. He noted that the Government had approved the extension of the retirement ages of High Court,
“The appointment process of EC members is similar to that of judges. “Article 122b and 125 of the Federal Constitution cited that the retirement age of judges and EC members is 65. “In line with the extension of the retirement ages of public service officials from 55 to 56 years old, Article 125 of the Federal Constitution has been amended in this Bill to provide an extension of the retirement age of EC officials to 66 years old once the Bill is enforced,” he said.
On the arrest of several people outside Parliament House, Nazri said the authorities had received information that some outsiders might go to Parliament to cause disturbances. “The police are doing the legitimate thing. It’s only the opposition members who are trying to justify their actions by walking out of the House. “They know that they will lose if a general election is called.
“So they want to find a reason to show as if something is not right with the Election Commission,” he said. Lim had questioned the need to rush the Bill, which he said might raise suspicions about the country’s electoral process.
He said the DAP would be filing an application at the High Court today to revise a magistrate’s court order that prohibited a gathering at Parliament House Tuesday. He said the act of the police in arresting several people in the Parliament compound was in contempt of Parliament. He said the MPs had staged a walkout to protest against the Bill, which did not have any electoral reform, and the arrests in the Parliament building.
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Charles Ramendran, B.Suresh Ram, Husna Yusop and Eunice Au ;theSUN
KUALA LUMPUR (Dec 11, 2007): About 30 people, including leaders of the Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih), were arrested today when they defied a court order and attempted to hand over a memorandum (ABOVE) to oppose the constitutional amendment to extend the retirement age of Election Commission members from 65 to 66. Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) treasurer Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim, its information chief Tian Chua and PAS treasurer Dr Hatta Ramli were among those arrested. However, by , at least half of those detained, including Khalid, were released. Police checkpoints and closure of roads leading to Parliament building today caused massive jams in the city, and thwarted attempts by Bersih supporters to reach the vicinity. However, despite the roadblocks and the heavy presence of police personnel led by Sentul OCPD Asst Comm Ahmad Sofian Md Yassin, who took their up positions as early as 4am, several Bersih leaders tried to enter Parliament.
Chua (ABOVE) was the first to be arrested at when he arrived in a Proton Tiara driven by PKR staff Abdul Razak Ismail. (BELOW)
The two coolly drove past dozens of policemen standing guard along the road leading to Parliament but had to stop the car after about 50m. Abdul Razak alighted several minutes after being ordered to do so by the police, but Chua refused to budge. Three policemen carried him from the car and tried to put him on his feet, but he lay flat on his back on the road. Several policemen then carried him into a patrol car (BELOW) which took him to the state police headquarters on Jalan Hang Tuah. Abdul Razak was taken away in another vehicle.
Fifteen minutes later, Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) secretary-general S.Arutchelvam and another supporter who were on foot, were arrested as they neared the road junction leading to Parliament. Hatta, together with PAS women's wing head Dr Lo'lo Ghazali, PSM president Dr Nasir Hashim and PKR's Ang Yok Hai, who had walked from the Mahameru highway interchange, were arrested at 11.15am. At , at least 40 journalists, who spotted Khalid turning up alone, converged around the PKR treasurer. He was arrested just as he was about to leave in a four-wheel drive. Sentul OCPD ACP Ahmad Sofian Md Yassin said all the road closures were removed by but police would continue to guard Parliament House. City Deputy CPO SAC I Patrick Jijes Sigore, when contacted at about , said the Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Musa Hassan will issue a statement on the arrests that were carried out. According to a PKR statement, among those arrested were two journalists, Centre for Independent Journalism executive director V.Gayathry, and Writers Alliance for Media Independence chairman Wong Chin Huat. It said the two were part of a five-member delegation which handed the memorandum to Parliament.
They handed it to opposition members of Parliament, Datuk Kamaruddin Jaafar (PAS-Tumpat), Salahuddin Ayub (PAS-Kubang Kerian), Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah(ABOVE, receiving on behalf) Wan Ismail (PKR-Permatang Pauh) and Teresa Kok (DAP-Seputeh). The other three in the delegation were the head of
They five were released by police by 4pm.As at press time, PKR said 16 people including a 13-year-old boy were still being held by police in their headquarters.
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Blackest day for Parliament in 50 years
This is the blackest day for Parliament in 50 years.In utter contempt of the sanctity of Parliament and the honour and dignity of Members of Parliament, the police arrested over 20 people in the parliamentary precincts.
Among those arrested were PAS leaders Mustapha Ali and Dr. Hatta Ramli, Parti Keadilan Rakyat secretary-general Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim and Information chief Tian Chua, Parti Sosialis Malaysia protem chairman Dr. Nasir Hashim as well as activists from the Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih) including Suaram executive director Yap Swee Seng, Centre for Independent Journalism executive director V Gayathry, Pusat Komas programme director Mien Lor, Writers Alliance for Media Independence chairperson Wong Chin Huat, PAS Research Centre director Dr Dzulkifli Ahmad and Harakah advertising manager Mokhtar Rosaidi.
I was eye-witness to the police arrest of Mustapha, Yap Swee Seng, Wong Chin Huat and Gayathry within the precincts of Parliament. In fact, I was accompanying
I protested strongly against such a most shameful episode in the annals of Malaysian history in 50 years when Dewan Rakyat resumed sitting after lunch recess, proposing a privilege motion to direct the Police to release all arrested within parliamentary precincts - as the police arrests should have been made outside Parliament. However, there was no support whatsoever from any Barisan Nasional MP or Minister. Nine DAP MPs and one PAS MP also met the Speaker, Tan Sri Ramli Ngah to lodge the strongest possible protest and he said he would seek clarification from the Inspector-of Police, Tan Sri Musa Hassan.
The blackest day for Parliament in 50 years after the Black Sunday of Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in his fifth year as fifth Prime Minister of Malaysia.
Immigration Denies Anwar Held
Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah(ABOVE) told reporters
“They held him and ask him to wait. They did not allow him to go pass immigration. They ask him toi wait and said they need to have a hop from above”He was allowed to leave the airport," he said when contacted by Bernama. Anwar, in a media statement this morning, said he was held by an immigration officer who informed him that his name appeared on the "suspects list" but without any elaboration. The PKR advisor claimed that he was detained temporarily at the airport before his passport was returned to him and he was allowed to leave for home.
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Anwar detained by immigration, dozens of Opposition leaders, members nabbed
KUALA LUMPUR (Dec 11, 2007): Immigration officers today detained de facto opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim and police arrested a human rights lawyer and about a dozen opposition leaders, amid growing complaints the government was harassing opposition politicians. Immigration officials detained former deputy premier Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahimin the KL
In the incident that lasted about half an hour, Anwar said he was stopped because his name was on immigration's "suspects list" although he was not informed why. Anwar said he was allowed to leave after a senior immigration officer came out to speak to him, but his name remains on the list, which could bar him from leaving
Police arrested about a dozen opposition leaders, including the leader of Anwar's Keadilan (Justice) party, Tian Chua, after the car he was travelling in broke through a police cordon and headed toward parliament to hand over a memo demanding reforms in the electoral process. Tian was arrested after he defied police orders to leave the car. Police then handcuffed and carried him out of the car before bundling him into a waiting police patrol car, Reuters reports today. A statement released by PKR's information bureau said Anwar, the de facto party leader, was detained and held for questioning by immigration as his passport was blacklisted. After being questioned for an hour, Anwar was released. Meanwhile, BERSIH, the coalition of civil society organisations and political parties were supposed to hand over a memorandum this morning to the Parliament Speaker Tan Sri Ramli Ngah Talib and Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Mohd Nazri Aziz.
However, the road leading to Parliament was closed. A delegation which was supposed to travel in a convoy from PAS headquarters in Chowkit to Parliament was surrounded by police on Jalan Raja Laut. About , PKR treasure Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim was also arrested by police while leaving Parliament house. It was not immediately known why he was arrested. Persons arrested thus far: Tain Chua PKR Information chief); Razak Ismail; A.Arutchelvan (Socialist Party Malaysia secretary-general) and Sivarajan (Socialist Party Malaysia central committee member). They have been taken to the Kula Lumpur police headquarters.
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Police Break Up Unlawful Assembly, Arrest Opposition Leaders
Police said they also arrested PKR secretary-general Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim and Pas central committee member Dr Lo'Lo' Mohd Ghazali. Police personnel, including from the Federal Reserve Unit, were stationed at several locations near the Parliament House this morning and they inspected vehicles heading towards the Parliament House's main entrance.
Dang Wangi OCPD ACP Zulkarnain Abdul Rahman told reporters that the police had to arrest several people who took part in the illegal assembly from 9am after they showed stubbornness to enter the Parliament House compound.Yesterday, the Kuala Lumpur police obtained a court order to stop Bersih supporters from gathering at the Parliament House supposedly to deliver a memorandum against a constitutional amendment today.