Parliamentarians call on Malaysian authorities to release Bersih activist

Source: Asean Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR)

maria-chin_law_6001_1aphr-logoJAKARTA — Parliamentarians from across Southeast Asia today joined the growing chorus of civil society groups and human rights advocates calling for the immediate and unconditional release of Maria Chin Abdullah, Chairperson of Bersih 2.0, a movement for clean government and free and fair elections in Malaysia.

MPs also called for the repeal of the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (SOSMA), an anti-terror law which was invoked following Ms. Chin’s arrest on Friday.

“SOSMA is a security law designed to arrest terrorists. There is no justification for its use in this case and it is clearly being abused. Maria Chin Abdullah is not a terrorist; she is a human rights defender and a committed citizen promoting peaceful public activism. She must be immediately and unconditionally released,” said Charles Santiago, a member of the Malaysian Parliament and Chairperson of ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR).

Maria Chin Abdullah was arrested the night of Friday, 18 November under Section 124C of the Penal Code, which outlaws “attempts to commit an activity detrimental to parliamentary democracy.” On Saturday authorities revealed that she was also being investigated under SOSMA, which allows for her detention without charge for up to 28 days. Read more

Indira, lawyers hail proposed law against unilateral child conversions

Source: The Malay Mail Online

File picture showing M. Indira Gandhi (left) with her lawyers M. Kulasegaran (centre) and Aston Paiva. — Picture by Melissa Chi

File picture showing M. Indira Gandhi (left) with her lawyers M. Kulasegaran (centre) and Aston Paiva. — Picture by Melissa Chi

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 21 — A Hindu mother, whose interfaith custody battle became the personification of the problem, today lauded Putrajaya’s proposal to legally ban unilateral child conversions that would prevent ordeals such as her own.

De facto law minister Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said today submitted the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) (Amendment) Bill that proposes to prevent single spouse conversions to Islam from unilaterally affecting either civil marriages or the children born from these.

“I’m so happy that finally the much awaited Bill has been amended,” M. Indira Gandhi, who has been locked in such a tussle for nearly seven years, told Malay Mail Online.

“It’s a relief and citizens of Malaysia will applaud the move by our government,” she said via text message.

Indira, who has been battling to get custody of her children since 2009, said the government is moving in the right direction with the proposed amendments.

“Hopefully it can be the answer in many prayers,” she added.

The new Bill, which also specifically addressed the “Religion of a Child” in civil marriages where one spouse has converted to Islam, said that the child will remain in the religion of the parents at the time of marriage until the child is 18 years old, when he many choose his own religion. Read more

International rights groups condemn Malaysia crackdown on organisers of Bersih rally

Source: The Straits Times

Ms Maria Chin Abdullah, chairperson of the coalition of Malaysian NGOs and activist groups known as Bersih. She was one of more than a dozen people who were arrested during a crackdown on the anti-government rally. PHOTO: AFP

Ms Maria Chin Abdullah, chairperson of the coalition of Malaysian NGOs and activist groups known as Bersih. She was one of more than a dozen people who were arrested during a crackdown on the anti-government rally. PHOTO: AFP

KUALA LUMPUR (AFP) – Rights groups condemned Malaysia’s government on Monday (Nov 21) for a crackdown on organisers of a weekend anti-government rally, including the arrest of the protest leader under a tough law aimed at terrorism.

Tens of thousands of people flooded Kuala Lumpur with the yellow colours of the reformist movement on Saturday (Nov 19) to demand that Prime Minister Najib Razak resign and face justice over a massive corruption scandal.

Authorities arrested more than a dozen people before, during and after the demonstration, including Ms Maria Chin Abdullah, the leader of the Bersih civil society alliance that staged the rally.

Most detainees have since been released but Ms Chin remains in solitary confinement under a national security law that allows detention without charge for 28 days and can bring a lengthy prison sentence.

Six Asian human rights organisations in a joint statement called the crackdown a grave breach of basic rights.

“These arrests violate international human rights standards,” it said, calling for all those arrested to be freed and all charges dropped.

The statement was released by the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development, the Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development, Fortify Rights, Human Rights Watch, the International Commission of Jurists and the South-east Asian Press Alliance.

The groups said they were especially “alarmed” at Ms Chin’s detention under a national security law introduced in 2012 by Mr Najib’s government with a promise it would not be used against political opponents.

“However, the authorities are instead using it to prevent the exercise of fundamental human rights, constituting an abuse of law,” the statement said. Read more

Malaysia should drop charges and release Bersih organisers and supporters — Human rights groups

Source: The Malay Mail Online

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 21 — The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD), Fortify Rights, Human Rights Watch, the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), and Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA), acting as international observers of the Bersih 5 rallies and related events, are calling on the Malaysian authorities to drop all charges against the Bersih organisers and activists. The authorities should return all items confiscated from the Bersih offices and stop making further arbitrary arrests in connection with these events. We consider these arrests to be violations of the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association.

The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (or in Malay “Gabungan Pilihanraya Bersih dan Adil”), otherwise known as Bersih (which means “clean” in Malay), is a coalition formed in 2006 by Malaysian non-governmental organisations calling for free, clean, and fair elections. Since its founding, Bersih has organised four previous peaceful assemblies. These public assemblies have attracted support from thousands of Malaysians throughout the country and among Malaysians living abroad. In the past year, Bersih faced harassment from multiple sources, including the Malaysian Government, which has leveled charges against Bersih and its chair Maria Chin Abdullah for organising and participating in peaceful activities.

To date, four Bersih organising committee members and more than 20 pro-Bersih supporters are currently facing a range of criminal charges, including under Section 124(c), 147, 153 and 511 of the Penal Code and the Sedition Act. The arrests were made in the lead up to and after the Bersih 5 rallies that took place on November 19, 2016 in Kuala Lumpur and other locations in Malaysia. Read more

Unacceptable use of Sosma against Maria — Suhakam

Source: The Malay Mail Online

Suhakam chief Tan Sri Razali Ismail — Picture by Saw Siow Feng

Suhakam chief Tan Sri Razali Ismail — Picture by Saw Siow Feng

NOVEMBER 21 — The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) wishes to underline its opposition to the use of the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (Sosma), which it has objected to in the past.

Suhakam reiterates that the broad characterisation of “security offences” under Sosma now suggests that its ambit extends beyond terrorism offences.

The application of the Sosma to Maria Chin where she has been detained without charge and without trial in this instance, and her wellbeing and welfare unknown, cannot be accepted by a society that has a national conscience.

The government’s assurance in 2011 promised that “no individual will be arrested merely on the point of political ideology.” In Suhakam’s view, the preventive detention of Maria Chin is a misuse of the law, an abuse of the legal system and of law enforcement.

Suhakam advises the government to interpret in good faith and in accordance with their ordinary meaning, the laws in their context and in the light of their object and purpose.

Suhakam would like to see a situation where the overemphasis by the authorities on restrictions to the right to freedom of assembly is replaced by efforts to facilitate the right.

* Press statement from Tan Sri Razali Ismail, chairman of the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) on November 21, 2016.

Govt tables bill to end unilateral conversion to Islam

Source: FMT News

M. Indira Gandhi (left) and S. Deepa are the focus of custody battles involving their former husbands who are Muslim converts. – The Malaysian Insider file pic, February 23, 2016.

M. Indira Gandhi (left) and S. Deepa are the focus of custody battles involving their former husbands who are Muslim converts. – The Malaysian Insider file pic, February 23, 2016.

KUALA LUMPUR: Putrajaya today tabled an amendment to the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act which will put an end to the unilateral conversion of minors.

The proposed amendment was tabled by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Azalina Othman Said for first reading at the Dewan Rakyat this morning.

The key point in the proposed amendment was that it will be applied retrospectively for any cases still pending in courts under this Act.

The amendment specifically states the need for both parties in a civil marriage to give consent for their child to be converted to Islam. This enactment thus challenges a previous judgment in court that the word “parent” in existing laws could be taken to mean only one parent’s consent was needed. Read more

Not even Jamal Yunos deserves Sosma, says Nurul Izzah

Source: The Malay Mail Online

Nurul said Maria’s Sosma detention proved the Opposition was right to oppose the law when it was proposed. — Picture by Choo Choy May for the Malay Mail online.

Nurul said Maria’s Sosma detention proved the Opposition was right to oppose the law when it was proposed. — Picture by Choo Choy May for the Malay Mail online.

The Lembah Pantai MP was weighing in on the use of the security law intended to curb terrorism to hold Bersih 2.0 chairman Maria Chin Abdullah on the eve of the Bersih 5 mass street rally last week, adding that she wouldn’t use it on even Datuk Seri Jamal Yunos who leads the Red Shirts movement.

“I mean frankly — no matter how much I detest Jamal — I would never subject anybody to these conditions,” she was quoted by The Star Online as telling reporters at Parliament.

“Even if you talk about terrorism suspects, charge them in court,” she added.

The PKR vice-president reportedly questioned the government on the need to hold the social activist under the law that allows for detention without trial.

“They are detaining a woman who is a mother of three children. How can any Malaysian justify that she is a threat?” Read more

In new amendments, Shariah courts to lose say on civil marriages

Source: The Malay Mail Online

The amendment Bill, which was tabled this morning in Dewan Rakyat, will enable Muslim converts to petition the civil courts for divorce. From the Malay Mail Online.

The amendment Bill, which was tabled this morning in Dewan Rakyat, will enable Muslim converts to petition the civil courts for divorce. From the Malay Mail Online.

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 21 — Only civil courts will have the power to determine civil marriages even if one spouse converts to Islam, under proposed amendments to the Law and Reform (Marriage and Divorce) (Amendment) 2016.

The amendment Bill, which was tabled this morning in Dewan Rakyat, will enable Muslim converts to petition the civil courts for divorce.

Previously, Muslim converts were required to do so via the Shariah courts, leading to the jurisdictional conflicts between the two parallel legal systems.

This was further complicated by the fact that Shariah courts only recognised the Muslim applicant, and not the non-Muslim spouse. Read more

Son says Bersih chief too frail to withstand ‘sleep deprivation’

Source: The Malay Mail online

Maria Chin Abdullah's son Azumin Mohamad Yunus (centre) outside the Petaling Jaya district police headquarters after making the report. — Picture by Siow Feng Saw. From the Malay Mail Online

Maria Chin Abdullah’s son Azumin Mohamad Yunus (centre) outside the Petaling Jaya district police headquarters after making the report. — Picture by Siow Feng Saw. From the Malay Mail Online

PETALING JAYA, Nov 21 — Azumin Mohamad Yunus today demanded that authorities release his mother, Bersih 2.0 chairman Maria Chin Abdullah, from the solitary confinement that he said was causing harmful sleep deprivation.

Explaining that his mother suffered ailments such as hypertension, osteoarthritis and a high cholesterol level, Azumin said the alleged conditions of her detention under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act, or Sosma, would endanger her health.

“When I met my mother at the Dang Wangi police headquarters on Sunday, she told us that she was living in a small cell with no proper bed, no blanket, windows and the lights were left on all the time. Read more

Adenan unhappy with progress to reclaim Sarawak’s rights, deputy says

Source: The Malay Mail Online

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 21 — Sarawak Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem is displeased at the pace with which discussions on reclaiming the state’s rights as a founding member of Malaysia are proceeding, according to his deputy.

Sarawak Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Douglas Uggah Embas, who expressed similar frustration, said Adenan will nonetheless continue discussions with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

“Tok Nan is not very happy with the progress to claim the state’s rights.

“But similar to those issues with Petronas, he is doing all he can by discussing with Najib,” Unggah was quoted saying on Saturday by local daily The Borneo Post.

Uggah said the Sarawak state government is “positive” that matters previously agreed upon would be “sorted out” with Putrajaya, despite the state deciding against tabling a motion on Sarawak’s rights in the state legislative assembly sitting that kicks off today.

“I assure you all that Tok Nan is as committed as before to win back the rights of Sarawak,” he said, referring to Adenan. Read more