Source: The New York Times
Protesters gathering in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in August to demonstrate against the government of Prime Minister Najib Razak. A Malaysian High Court has upheld a government edict declaring yellow shirts that call for a clean government a national security threat. Credit Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters
BANGKOK — It is a simple yellow T-shirt with the word “clean” in Malay. Tens of thousands of people own them. But wear one on the street in Malaysia today and you risk arrest.
A Malaysian High Court has upheld a government edict declaring the shirt a national security threat.
The T-shirts say “Bersih 4,” the name of an antigovernment demonstration in Kuala Lumpur, the capital, last August. “Bersih” means “clean,” and the protesters were calling for clean government.
Before the protests, Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi banned the shirts, along with fliers promoting the Bersih 4 events. As many as 100,000 protesters defied the government and wore the shirts anyway, creating a sea of yellow in the streets of Kuala Lumpur.
The protests targeted Prime Minister Najib Razak after reports emerged that nearly $700 million had been deposited in his personal bank account. The government said the money was a donation from undisclosed Saudi royalty, an explanation mocked by the opposition and later contradicted by the Saudi government.
“The T-shirts have now become a symbol of our struggle for democracy and human rights in Malaysia,” said Maria Chin Abdullah, chairwoman of Bersih 2.0, a clean-government advocacy group that organized the protests.
A High Court judge, Muhammad Yazid Mustafa, announced Friday that he was upholding the ban on the shirts, although he has yet to issue a written ruling. He said the prohibition fell within the home minister’s authority to maintain public order.
“I find that order was within the confines of the minister’s power,” the judge ruled, according to an audio recording of the hearing.
Bersih 2.0, which challenged the ban in the High Court, will appeal the ruling, Ms. Abdullah said. “I don’t know where they got the idea we are a national security threat,” she said. “We are going to challenge this decision.”
A lawyer representing the group, New Sin Yew, said that under the edict, shirt wearers could be fined about $1,185. Some people have been briefly detained for wearing the shirts, he said, but he was unaware of anyone being prosecuted or fined. Read more