Bersih 2.0 chief Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan mounted a legal action today, challenging the decision by the home minister, the Inspector-General of Police and the Malaysian government to outlaw the electoral reform movement.
Bersih 2.0 said the government order issued on July 1 is illegally and is not rational; it is now seeking a judicial review for the order to be cancelled immediately.
Ambiga and 13 other people connected with the electoral reform movement named in the suit want the court to issue a restriction order against the authorities to stop government officers from entering and raiding their premises and to return all the Bersih 2.0 property and materials seized in the last two weeks, ranging from the yellow T-shirts, posters, placards, pictures, members’ list.
In its papers filed at the High Court earlier this morning, the group said Bersih 2.0 is wholly different from the entity known as Bersih launched in 2007 as the new movement launched in November 2010 is a coalition made up of only civil society organisations and does not include any political parties.
To support its case, Bersih 2.0 argued that “the order by its very terms describes Bersih as a ‘movement’ and not a grouping or a society”, and that the home minister does not have the power to declare a diverse and disparate group of organisations as unlawful as it does not also fall under the definition of a “society” under the Societies Act.
It vehemently denied the allegation that it was “spreading seditious propaganda among the citizens for the purpose of toppling the government by distributing certain pamphlets”, saying Bersih 2.0’s pamphlets were on peaceful demands for change in the electoral system.
“Whether an idea is popular or not is not sufficient legitimate grounds to ban the idea. The respondents have a positive obligation to ensure the fundamental rights of each citizen to speak, assemble and form an association is protected and allowed regardless of whether it supports or criticises the respondents,” the group said.
The 14 Bersih leaders said the home minister had misused his statutory powers for a hidden agenda and not to protect public order.
They accused him of acting with bad intentions and not consistent with the Societies Act or the Federal Constitution, which is the highest law in the country.
It further said that Bersih 2.0 had held several meetings with the three authorities named in the suit and the Election Commission since its launch eight months ago, adding that “no complaints have ever been made that Bersih 2.0 had acted illegally or in a way that prejudiced national security or public peace”.
Bersih 2.0 said it had planned to hold a gathering tomorrow, July 9, to demand for free and fair elections and that many other regular citizens also want take part.
But in the last two weeks the authorities have mounted an “intensive crackdown on Bersih 2.0 supporters” and that the plaintiffs were given no chance to air their views before the order was issued.
The 13 other individuals listed as plaintiffs include Bersih 2.0’s steering committee members. They are Maria Chin Abdullah, Datuk Toh Kin Woon, Zaid Kamaruddin, Dr Ahmad Farouk Musa, Arul Prakkash Sinnappan, Haris Fathillah Mohamed Ibrahim, Andrew Khoo Chin Hock, Liau Kok Fah, Wong Chin Huat, Datuk Yeoh Yong Poh, and Yeo Yong Woi.
“The only threats to public order have been made by other parties and not by Bersih 2.0, but the respondents have not taken any meaningful action against those other parties,” the group said in its filing.
The Youth wing of the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) government’s lynchpin, Umno, led by Khairy Jamaluddin, and right-wing Malay nationalist group Perkasa, led by Datuk Ibrahim Ali, have both declared they will march against Bersih 2.0 if the election watchdog persists in holding its rally tomorrow.
Bersih 2.0 said in a statement this morning it will not change its mind and will hold its gathering in the iconic Stadium Merdeka to demand for more honest elections, despite being banned.
The police have permission from the magistrate’s court to keep 91 individuals, including 66 named as Bersih supporters, out of the city tomorrow between 8am and 6pm, and have said they might arrest them if they breach the restriction order.