We the undersigned civil society organisations condemn Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak’s power abuse in arbitrarily banning Maria Chin Abdullah, the chairperson of Coalition for Clean and Free Elections 2.0 (Bersih 2.0) from leaving the country.
This pathetic move is to deliberately prevent Maria from receiving the prestigious Gwangju Prize for Human Rights. Previous awardees include Xanana Gusmão of East Timor and Aung San Su Kyi of Myanmar.
Keeping Maria in the country does not spare the Najib government the embarrassment in Gwangju, South Korea this coming Wednesday. If anything, Najib and his deputy-cum-Home Minister Zahid Hamidi are making themselves comparable to Indonesia’s dictator Suharto and Myanmar’s military junta, against whom Gusmao and Su Kyi relentlessly fought.
Maria’s absence would be the best testimony of both Malaysia’s plight under a corrupt and authoritarian government and Najib’s fear of the global denunciation he is getting for his 1MDB mega scandal.
In banning Maria, Najib and Zahid are also recognising the strength of Bersih 2.0, in the words of the Gwangju Prize for Human Rights Committee on April 21, as “an example of strength for the country in the face of mounting challenges from the state”. They are recognising the power of millions of Bersih supporters especially the 500,000 Malaysians who participated in the Bersih 4 rally last year. They are showing their fear.
Bersih 2.0 has not only given “vibrancy to electoral reform and made it a national agenda for change with its eight demands”. It is now fighting for institutional reforms to establish a healthy multiparty democracy.
And given Maria’s travel ban and Sarawak Chief Minister Adenan Satem’s illegal barring of politicians and activists from entering Sarawak, the institutional reforms Bersih 2.0 fight for must now include that of immigration control to prevent blatant power abuse by unscrupulous members of the executive.
We urge Malaysians to stand up and demand Najib and Zahid to immediately lift the travel ban of Maria and others and apologise to the public for abusing their power.
Essayist Edward Abbey famously said, “A patriot must always be ready to defend his country against his government.” Now is another key moment that patriotic Malaysians should stand up and be counted.
This statement is endorsed by the following civil society organisations:
1. Akademi Belia
2. All Women's Action Society (Awam)
3. Angkatan Warga Aman Malaysia (WargaAman)
4. Asalkan Bukan Umno (ABU)
5. Borneo Resources Institute, Malaysia (Brimas)
6. Centre to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4)
8. Federation of Malaysian Indian Organisation (Prima)
9. Friends of Kota Damansara
10. Institute for Development of Alternative Living (Ideal)
11. Islamic Renaissance Front (IRF)
12. Jaringan Hak Adat Bangsa Asal Sarawak (Tahabas)
13. Jaringan Orang Asal SeMalaysia (JOAS)
14. Jihad for Justice
15. Kelab Bangsar Utama
16. Kuala Lumpur & Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall (KLSCAH)
17. Kumpulan Aktivis Mahasiswa Independen (Kami)
18. LLG Cultural Development Centre (LLG)
19. Malaysian Indians Progressive Association (Mipas)
20. Malaysian Indians Transformation Action Team (Mitra)
21. Malaysian Youth Care Association (Prihatin)
22. National Indian Rights Action Team (Niat)
23. Negri Sembilan Chinese Assembly Hall (NSCAH)
24. Partners in Community Organising (Pacos Trust)
25. Persatuan Aliran Kesedaran Negara (Aliran)
26. Persatuan Kesedaran Komuniti Selangor (Empower)
27. Persatuan Masyarakat Selangor dan Wilayah Persekutuan (Permas)
28. Persatuan Rapat Malaysia (Rapat)
29. Progressive University of Malaya
30. Projek Dialog
31. Pusat Komas
32. Research For Social Advancement (Refsa)
33. Rise Of Sarawak Efforts (R.O.S.E.)
34. Sabah Women’s Action Resource Group (Sawo)
35. Saccess Sarawak
36. Sarawak Women for Women Society (SWWS)
37. SAVE Rivers
38. Saya Anak Bangsa Malaysia (SABM)
39. Society for the Promotion of Human Rights (Proham)
40. Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram)
41. Teoh Beng Hock Trust for Democracy
42. The Association Of Graduates From Universities And Colleges Of China,Malaysia (Liu Hua)
43. Tindak Malaysia (TM)
44. We Are Malaysians
45. Women Centre for Change, Penang (WCC)
46. Writer Alliance for Media Independence (Wami)