Five lawyers and three activists were arrested this morning when they attempted to march in Kuala Lumpur ahead of World Human Rights Day tomorrow.
That they should be arrested while trying to uphold the right to freedom of assembly shows us just what the authorities think of human rights. It reveals utter contempt of basic rights by a morally bankrupt administration.
Those arrested were among 50 Malaysians marching to demand their basic rights. A huge press contingent of another 50 were on hand to cover the march.
The eight are:
- Sivarasa Rasiah
- N Surendran
- Amer Hamzah
- Eric Paulsen
- Anthony Andu
- Noorazah Othman
- Latheefa Koya
- And one other individual
Read Aliran president P Ramakrishnan’s statement here.
Apart from the eight, Bar Council human rights committee chairperson Edmund Bon has also been arrested for allegedly trying to prevent local authority personnel from removing banners outside the Bar Council’s headquarters in KL.
A Bar Council official told me that the banners had been placed on the exterior of their building, “clearly within our property”. Bon was arrested after he tried to prevent the authorities from taking away the banners.
How ridiculous the authorities look in the eyes of the world. For a government that is so concerned about its international image, this is not going to help.
Update: And now, Malayiakini reports that police have arrested Keadilan’s Tian Chua, Pas’ Mohamad Sabu and a dozen others, mainly from Pas’ Unit Amal, who took part in the 10 Nov Bersih rally.
All those arrested are lawyers, opposition activists and other concerned Malaysians who are worried about the erosion of democracy and human rights in Malaysia. People like Bon, Latheefa (whom I sometimes talk to when writing articles for IPS) and Amer Hamzah (who has contributed articles to Aliran Monthly), Eric Paulsen and Sivarasa represent the best of Malaysians and give us hope. They are courageous lawyers who are passionate about human rights, irrespective of ethnic and religious considerations. They champion the underdog and those whose rights have been trampled upon like real lawyers are supposed to do.
Latheefa has done some sterling work in championing the rights of migrant workers,
Amer Hamzah in highlighting the plight of refugees and asylum seekers,
Bon in promoting the cause of human rights among lawyers,
Sivarasa and Eric Paulsen in their exemplary campaigning on human rights issues.
These are true Malaysians we can all be proud of.
This morning at Sunday Mass, I couldn’t help thinking of ordinary Malaysians crying out for justice and an end to oppression and poverty. Today’s official scripture readings during the season of Advent (to prepare for the birth of Christ on Christmas) seemed particularly apt. It reveals a God who is deeply concerned about his people – especially the poor and the oppressed – and who wants them to be ruled with justice and peace.
In these times, when it has become so easy to use religion to create divisions among us, let us remind ourselves that we are children of the One God. No matter what our religious beliefs or affiliations, let us join hands and ask the Lord to release all those unjustly detained in Malaysia and to bring about justice and compassion in our land.
The priest, in his sermon this morning, said that justice would not come by itself. We have to go out and create justice in our everyday lives wherever we are.
At about the same time this morning, Latheefa, Bon, Amer Hamzah and the others were arrested for doing just that.
- But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom.
- The spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him: a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, A spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the LORD,
- and his delight shall be the fear of the LORD. Not by appearance shall he judge, nor by hearsay shall he decide,
- But he shall judge the poor with justice, and decide aright for the land’s afflicted. He shall strike the ruthless with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked.
- Justice shall be the band around his waist, and faithfulness a belt upon his hips.
- Of Solomon.
- O God, give your judgment to the king; your justice to the son of kings; That he may govern your people with justice, your oppressed with right judgment,
- That abundance may flourish in his days, great bounty, till the moon be no more.
- May he rule from sea to sea, from the river to the ends of the earth.
- For he rescues the poor when they cry out, the oppressed who have no one to help.
- He shows pity to the needy and the poor and saves the lives of the poor.
- May his name be blessed forever; as long as the sun, may his name endure. May the tribes of the earth give blessings with his name; may all the nations regard him as favoured.