UMNO – Malaysia’s scourge

William de Cruz, New Mandala

Two Malaysian minors were among 24 people charged in a Kuala Lumpur court on 4 July 2011 for their involvement in a planned weekend rally calling for free and fair elections.

The children were among democracy activists who were jointly charged under the Societies Act in connection with the BERSIH 2.0 rally scheduled for this Saturday, 9 July, in Malaysia’s  capital city, Kuala Lumpur.

The court action is the latest in a widening government crackdown on the rally organisers, who have also received unsourced death threats and suffered harassment and intimidation by Malaysian police and government authorities.

Hundreds of thousands of Malaysians are nevertheless readying to rally this Saturday, despite the government banning all BERSIH 2.0 rallies and declaring the organising NGO group, BERSIH 2.0, illegal.

Worldwide, Malaysians and their supporters will take to the streets of capital cities on the same day, supporting the call for electoral reform amid mass arrests in Malaysia and in defiance of the ‘ban’ and ‘illegal organisation’ edicts.

Global solidarity walks and demonstrations will be led by Malaysians residing abroad in London, Paris, Geneva, Hong Kong, Taipei, Seoul, Tokyo, Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth, Auckland, Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York and Washington next Saturday.

More than 100 activists have been arrested or questioned by police in Malaysia this past week, for their roles in helping to organise Saturday’s KL rally.

In a late development on July 2, six officers of Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM – Socialist Party of Malaysia), who had been released after their June 25 detentions in the island state of Penang for supporting the rally, were re-arrested under the Emergency Ordinance (EO).

The activists were reportedly charged with “inciting national unrest” and “waging war against the king” – the latter a charge that is tantamount to treason and punishable by death.

By late evening on July 3, more arrests were being conducted in Malaysia, and Sungei Siput Opposition MP Dr Michael Jeyakumar and the other 5 PSM activists were taken to police headquarters in Bukit Aman, KL.

The EO allows for indefinite detention without trial and was described by a well placed official in Malaysian politics as “a cousin of the Internal Security Act”, which also allows the government to detain citizens without the need to present them in court.

Referring to the ongoing arrests and statements from Malaysia’s highest offices, the source said: “This is now a no-holds-barred situation.”

Donna Guest, Deputy Asia-Pacific Director at Amnesty International, said: “The Malaysian authorities are muzzling calls for electoral reform by throwing peaceful protesters in jail.

“We have not seen such a crackdown on political activists across Malaysia in many years.

“Malaysia is undermining its claim to be a moderate democracy through this campaign of repression.”