Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Israel Barbaric ~ But Is Malaysia Any Better?

So long as oppressive and antiquated laws like the Internal Security Act continue to remain in force, the Malaysian government lacks the moral standing to condemn human rights abuses perpetrated by others who stubbornly cling to the primitive and ugly tenet that Might Is Right.

No doubt the global community must come together and insist that Israel immediately abandon its hideous pogrom against the Palestinian people. For a start the Gaza Blockade must come down and relief brought swiftly to the long-suffering Gazans.

Those of us who have risked being tear-gassed, water-cannoned and summary arrest just for holding a lit candle in public places to protest the existence of the obnoxious ISA will surely be heartened by the inspiring efforts of the Abolish ISA Movement UK, which began picketing the Tourism Malaysia office in London last month.

I read an uplifting report in Malaysiakini about their first gathering in Trafalgar Square. The Malaysian participants expressed surprise and delight at how the London Metropolitan Police responded to their picket. Not only were the Bobbies extremely polite, they went out of their way to be helpful, offering to help with traffic flow and to protect the protesters from harassment.

This prompted me to email the organizers of the Abolish ISA Movement UK on 2 May 2010:

Read your piece in Malaysiakini about how helpful the London police were when you organized an anti-ISA picket in front of the Malaysian Tourism Office. It warms my heart to see Malaysians abroad who still feel passionately about the homeland - and how it is being misgoverned.

The Umno/BN regime appears to be a 19th century feudal mindset trapped in rapidly changing times. In the two years since the political tsunami of 8 March 2008, Umno/BN leaders have apparently learnt nothing - except that their survival is threatened, which is why there seems to be a return to despotism and the police state mentality created by Mahathir.

Nobody I know favors Najib Razak as the nation's top civil servant. Indeed, we would prefer to see him and his wife in political exile - or behind bars where they belong.
It would be great if all of you could demand voting rights - the only legitimate use of postal votes - and help us boot BN out at every election until they evaporate like a bad dream.

All the best to you always,



This was the reply I received almost immediately:

Dear Antares,

Thanks so much for your encouragement and feedback. You are right - the country is in a shambolic state and it is such a pity - because Malaysia has such potential and could be such a great place if only..... We're not really doing very much but we definitely feel the conviction to do SOMETHING and show solidarity to all the Malaysians back home who are sick and tired of the status quo and face persecution and prosecution when they stick their necks out. And I think we need to take every opportunity to remind the Malaysian government of their obligations to the people and embarrass them if need be!

Voting rights - great idea. We are actually working on that, a test of whether or not denying Malaysians overseas a vote is in fact unconstitutional (we think it probably is) - as at present only government officials and Malaysian students overseas can vote. And given the number of Malaysians abroad, you're right that obtaining a postal vote could make a real difference ( as long as its not hijacked by BN). Do keep me posted if you have any other ideas of what else we can do from an overseas campaigning point of view.

Warm regards

Abolish ISA Movement UK

On 31 May Malaysiakini carried the following report (reproduced in part):

Malaysians launch monthly anti-ISA watch in London

Despite the cold and the drizzle, the monthly anti-ISA watch held yesterday in Trafalgar Square by the UK chapter of the Abolish ISA Movement, received an impressive turnout.

Malaysians from all walks of life turned up at the venue, in front of the Malaysian Tourism Office, to show their solidarity to those detained under the ISA (Internal Security Act) as well as those back home who take considerable risks in campaigning tirelessly to end this oppressive law.

Present were a number of human rights activists, students, ex-ISA detainees, lawyers, journalists, bloggers, artists and concerned citizens.

Some were Malaysians who had lived in London for up to 30 years and others who were just passing through, having read about the monthly ISA-watch initiative on Malaysia's vibrant internet news portals.

There was a distinct buzz and energy in the air as the protest gained momentum on a busy corner of Trafalgar Square, where tens of thousands of people pass each day.

Over 150 passers-by stopped to take information leaflets on the ISA, most of them curious to find out why the tourism office was garnering so much attention.

Many were shocked to learn of the flip side to Malaysia's sunny tourist image and the murky depths below its advertised turquoise clear waters.

The protestors carried banners and placards reading 'Stop detention without trial!', 'Malaysia - Stop Human Rights Abuses!' and 'ISA - a violation of human rights and civil liberties.'

London police helpful

The protestors were stopped by the metropolitan police once - but only to enquire that if was running well and if they could provide the demonstrators any assistance.

Inspiring young artists and activists added colour to the demonstration by reciting ISA-inspired poetry and songs.

One of the organisers explained the catalyst for these London demonstrations saying, "Over the last few months, there has been a sense that the Malaysian government has been trying very hard to spruce up its image abroad.

"London seems to be at the centre of this glossy marketing campaign - with initiatives such as the government sponsored Malaysian Kitchen project, a maiden exhibition at the Chelsea Flower Shower, the promotion of Malaysia as a health tourism destination and Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak's recent appearance in a design and current affairs magazine, the Monocle.

"Alongside this is Malaysia's re-election to the UN Human Rights Council a few weeks ago.

"Whilst this public relations re-branding exercise is not in itself a bad thing, we feel it's important for the Malaysian government to accept that if they want to play on an international platform, they need to abide by international human rights norms and standards.

"Denying people their liberty indefinitely without charge or trial and using this archaic law as a way of silencing human rights activists, journalists, bloggers, opposition politicians and the man on the street, is not acceptable."

[Read a fuller report at Malaysia Today.]