Stop the violence and Intimidation now! – BERSIH

By Shed Shahir Syed Mohamud

Chairman, BERSIH 

BERSIH condemns the violence and acts of intimidation which have taken place in Ijok since nomination day on 19 April 2007.

The acts of violence and intimidation were reported to continue during the campaign period and till today, we have not heard of any action being taken by the police. The Elections Commission (EC) too has failed to take the necessary steps to ensure that the campaign period will be free from such incidents despite being alerted to the incident on nomination period.

BERSIH is deeply concerned with the current developments in Ijok and fear that these incidents will become the norm if no proper action is taken by the EC. BERSIH feels that it is the sole responsibility of the EC to take all necessary steps through multi-party arrangement to ensure that the campaign and election process is free from violence and intimidation.

The EC also has a duty to investigate these incidents and take action by referring these incidents to the police for further action. These duties are vested in the EC as stated in Section 8 of the Election Act that stipulates that the EC is to exercise control and supervision over the conduct of elections.

BERSIH views that the EC must exercise these powers in the interest of the voters and in accordance with the principles of free and fair elections that provide for the creation of a climate in which parties can organize, candidates can campaign, and voters can cast their votes free of violence and intimidation.

Further, the EC has a responsibility to ensure free and fair elections as a body representing a country which is a signatory to the Declaration On Criteria For Free And Fair Elections, which was adopted by the Inter-Parliamentary Council in Paris in March 1994.

Article 4 of the Declaration, among others, stipulates the responsibilities of the States to take all necessary and appropriate measures to ensure that the parties and candidates are able to cast their ballots freely without fear or intimidation and to take the necessary measures to ensure that parties, candidates and supporters enjoy equal security, and that state authorities take the necessary steps to prevent electoral violence.

Article 4 also specifically placed the responsibilities that violations of human rights and complaints relating to the electoral process are determined promptly within the time frame of the electoral process and effectively by an independent and impartial authority,such as an electoral commission or the courts.

The EC is therefore responsible to ensure such standards as a state authority that is given the full power to exercise control over election in Malaysia by the Federal Constitution.

BERSIH deeply regrets the narrow approach taken by the EC on its role when it washed its hands off the question of security, as reported in the media on 22 April 2007.

BERSIH is concerned that if the violence and threats continue — coupled with police inaction — there may be the inevitable backlash from opposition supporters who are unlikely to take the threats lying down.

If violence cannot be prevented or contained in a by-election, what would happen in the general elections? If elections are conducted within a violent and fearful environment, on top of fraud and irregularities, the government chosen as a result of the elections will lack legitimacy, putting the viability of Malaysian democracy in crisis.

BERSIH therefore urges the EC to immediately investigate the violence reported in the campaign process in Ijok and make an open report to the police for further action.

We also urge the EC to make all necessary security arrangement with the police and other agencies to prevent other such incidents from taking place.

BERSIH’s view is that that the EC should consider postponing the by-election should more of such incidents continue.

We call upon all Malaysians and international bodies to pay close attention to these undesirable developments in the country, for the sake of democracy and rule of law. This disturbing trend must stop right now.

ADDENDUM:

1. Around 11.30am on Saturday, 21 April 2007, a KeADILan Ijok committee member reported that three young Malay men in a black BMW stopped several times along the main road of Kampung Jaya Setia,taking down all the keADILan flags. The witness has lodged a police report on the incident.

On top of that, the landlord of the premises which KeADILan was using as an operations centre has been ordered by the authorities to ‘close up shop’. The landlord’s son – a government employee at Shah Alam – was threatened with a transfer to Sarawak if he (the landlord) allowed KeADILan to continue renting the premises.

2. On the same day (Saturday), blogger/photographer Jeff Ooi, a photographer friend and KeADILAN candidate, Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim, were having lunch when a man in Pemuda BN uniform went over to their table and verbally intimidated Tan Sri Khalid. Seeing that the mob then tried prevent Tan Sri Khalid’s car from leaving the area, Ooi and his friend hurried to leave in their car but were stopped by about 20 men. One of the Pemuda BN members, seeing that the car window was half-wound down, then threw a broken water bottle, at close range, at Ooi’s friend and broke his spectacles. He had cuts below the eye as a result of that encounter. A police report has also been lodged on the incident.

3. In another incident over the weekend, student group Youth for Change (Y4C) was verbally threatened while they were conducting an election-related survey at an estate near Ijok. The 40 students led by convener Lee Khai Loon were threatened with trouble if they did not stop “disturbing” the workers. A man then threatened to “bring 100 more” people if the group did not leave the estate. MP for Cameron Highlands, SK Devamany, also reprimanded Lee for breaching the Universities and University Colleges Act (UUCA) which prohibits student participation in political activities.

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