Last Updated: Tuesday, 16 September 2014, 13:37 GMT

Malaysia: Unconditional release of the 6 PSM leaders, amid continuing concerns for freedom of assembly and expression

Publisher International Federation for Human Rights
Publication Date 3 August 2011
Cite as International Federation for Human Rights, Malaysia: Unconditional release of the 6 PSM leaders, amid continuing concerns for freedom of assembly and expression, 3 August 2011, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4e48d6e1c.html [accessed 17 September 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Paris-Geneva-Kuala Lumpur, August 2, 2011. Six Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) leaders, who had been detained under the Emergency (Public Order and Crime Prevention) Ordinance, were released on 29 July 2011, but they may face charges similar to those of the other members of the party who are facing legal threats for their peaceful activities. The recent wave of repression on peaceful activities, including the politically-motivated deportation of a French lawyer, all point to a continuing, serious deterioration in the Malaysian government's respect for basic freedoms and the rule of law, said the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and their member organisation, Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM).

The Government has also yet to account for allegations of police abuses during the crackdown of the July 9 rally organised by Bersih (Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections), added FIDH, OMCT and SUARAM today. The Malaysian Bar Council, which monitored the rally, concluded in its report that the "rally participants generally behaved in a peaceful and calm manner" whereas there were "indiscriminate and excessive use of tear gas and water cannons," "unnecessary use of physical force/high-handedness by the police force," and "random and arbitrary arrests"[1].

The six leaders of the PSM, namely Mr. Michael Jeyakumar Devaraj, Miss Saraswathy Muthu, Mr. Choo Chon Kai, Mr. Sukumaran Munisamy, Mr. A. Letchumanan and Mr. Saratbabuabu, were first arrested on June 25, 2011, along with 25 other PSM activists, including three minors one of whom was released the same day, and charged with "waging war against the King" under Section 122 of the Penal Code for merely possessing or wearing Bersih T-shirts bearing images of former leaders of the Communist Party of Malaysia. On the same day of their release on bail on July 2, they were re-arrested and detained ever since under the Emergency Ordinance. The authorities justified their detention on the allegation that they were mainly responsible for organising the Bersih rally on July 9, 2011. On July 22, the Kuala Lumpur High Court approved a request from the Prosecutor for more time to file affidavit and postponed the habeas corpus hearing for the six PSM leaders until 5 August. However, on July 29 the six were eventually released. They are expected to be charged on 3 August 2011 at the Butterworth court in Penang.

An additional 24 PSM members had been released after posting bail on July 4. They have been charged under the Societies Act with acting on behalf of an unlawful organisation and under the Internal Security Act (ISA) with possessing documents deemed to be "subversive". These charges seem to be aimed at merely sanctioning the members' peaceful exercise of their freedom of association, assembly and expression.

Also, on July 22, French Lawyer William Bourdon was deported to France from Kuala Lumpur International Airport. Mr. Bourdon represents SUARAM in an on-going case before French courts against French naval arms producer DCNS over financial irregularities in a Scorpene submarine deal that allegedly involved millions of ringgit in kickbacks[2].

This case, which allegedly involves corruption at top level, reveals the extent to which Malaysian authorities feel uneasy and attempt by all means to hide out the truth by restricting freedom of expression and assembly.

"In the last two months, the government has failed miserably in upholding its obligation to respect freedom of expression and assembly, by beating, arresting and persecuting people for their peaceful activities, and denying the people's right to receive information on issues of public interests", FIDH President Souhayr Belhassen said today.

"The government needs to pull back from the brink of authoritarianism by ceasing these violations", SUARAM Program Manager Nalini Elumalai added.

"We are very much concerned about these recent events, and notably the allegations of police abuses. We urge the Malaysian authorities to put an end to these violations, and promptly investigate the aforementioned allegations", said Mr. Eric Sottas, OMCT's Secretary General.


Footnotes

[1] See Malaysian Bar Council, Report by BC monitoring team on the public rally held on 9 July 2011 in Kuala Lumpur, July 12, 2009, available here.

[2] For more information about the case, please go to SUARAM's website: www.suaram.net

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