Does freedom come with a price? — Khoo Ying Hooi

Source: MYsinchew.com

By Khoo Ying Hooi

Last week, I had the opportunity to be part of the Malaysia Freedom Summit (MFS) that organized by the Institute for Leadership and Development Studies (LEAD). This is the third time for the LEAD to organize such forum since 2015. Former treasury secretary-general also the founder of G25, Tan Sri Mohd Sheriff Mohd Kassim delivered a keynote address looking into freedom as a core value of development. Apart from the main session on the state of freedom in Malaysia, the forum also discussed academic freedom, political freedom, religious freedom and economic freedom.

We read about freedom, dream about freedom, and hope for freedom, but what does it really mean? Freedom means different things to different people. My definition of freedom might be different from yours. But what’s important is that it is an inalienable right, which we must respect and defend.

However, putting it in the context of Malaysia, this so-called freedom is fragile. Over the decades, Malaysia’s political system has become a formula for the division of race and religion. Malaysia has a narrow concept of human rights, having signed only three out of the nine binding international human rights treaties. Our Federal Constitution for instance, it protects freedom of belief and freedom of expression. In practice, these freedoms are however restricted. Freedoms of assembly and association are similarly limited on the grounds of maintaining security and public order. Read more

Setting high bail is punishment before trial, lawyers say

Source: The Malaysian Insider

Cartoonist Zunar, charged with sedition at the Kuala Lumpur Sessions Court last April. There is a trend of judges at lower courts setting high amounts of bail on the accused, but lawyers say it is akin to punishment before the trial concludes. – The Malaysian Insider file pic, November 19, 2015.

Cartoonist Zunar, charged with sedition at the Kuala Lumpur Sessions Court last April. There is a trend of judges at lower courts setting high amounts of bail on the accused, but lawyers say it is akin to punishment before the trial concludes. – The Malaysian Insider file pic, November 19, 2015.

Recent cases where a high amount of bail is imposed on the accused have led lawyers to decry the punitive action by lower court judges even before the conclusion of trial.

The primary aim of bail, lawyers said, was to secure the accused’s attendance for the trial in exchange for release from jail.

They noted the RM70,000 bail for activist Khalid Mohd Ismath for 14 charges recently, and said the sprit of being innocent until proven guilty was violated when magistrates and sessions court judges imposed such high amounts of bail.

This also punished family members, relatives and friends who have to raise large sums of money to secure freedom.

Lawyer Fahri Azzat said bail should not be punitive because the accused person was presumed innocent until proven guilty under the present legal system.

“A high bail amount imposed on accused persons amounts to a punishment and taking away of the freedom should the money required not be posted,” he said.

Fahri was asked to respond to the Johor Baru High Court which on November 11 set bail for Khalid at RM70,000 for 14 charges related to a charge of insulting the Johor royalty. Read more

Putrajaya to bar Bibles with ‘Allah’ in West Malaysia under proposed SOP

Source: The Malaysian Insider

Malay-language Bibles containing the word 'Allah' may be restricted under new proposed guidelines shown to Christian leaders. – The Malaysian Insider file pic, May 28, 2015.

Malay-language Bibles containing the word ‘Allah’ may be restricted under new proposed guidelines shown to Christian leaders. – The Malaysian Insider file pic, May 28, 2015.

A new set of guidelines being proposed by Putrajaya could see Malay-language Bibles with the word “Allah” being barred from Peninsular Malaysia, going against the pledge by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak in April 2011 to allow the holy books to be distributed nationwide.

The draft standard operating procedure (SOP) was unveiled by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Tan Sri Joseph Kurup, to Christian leaders in Sabah and Sarawak in April, and to the Christian Federation of Malaysia (CFM) on May 18.

The general principle in the new rules is that Christian publications with the word “Allah” cannot be imported into Peninsular Malaysia, and if brought in, can only pass through with Sabah and Sarawak as their final destinations. Read more

Media Statement: Freedom Fund, Financial Support for the Persecuted

Source: Freedom Fund Malaysia

MEDIA STATEMENT FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

9 May 2015, updated 10 May 2015

Now there is help for those persecuted for exercising their rights to speak, express, assemble and form association. These are rights guaranteed to all Malaysians under Article 10 of the Federal Constitution.

ENGAGE, a citizen action group, has come forward to organise Freedom Fund in the face of relentless and frivolous arrests of activists, politicians, academicians, lawyers and even cartoonists. Read more