It was a victory of historic
proportions in Malaysia, yet it barely registered a ripple in the
news here in Singapore. Last week, a Malaysian court ruled against
the Barisan Nasional (National Front) government's ban against
Bersih (Clean) and its rallies.
High Court Judge Rohana Yusof quashed
Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein’s order made in 2011 that
outlawed Bersih. (See here)
decision to declare Bersih unlawful was made without taking into
account some relevant facts or by taking into account irrelevant
facts,” the Judge said. "The decision to outlaw Bersih impinges
on the rights guaranteed under the Federal Constitution and should
not be taken in just a lackadaisical manner.”
Bersih, a coalition of NGOs, has
staged massive annual public rallies in Kuala Lumpur demanding free
and fair elections and freedom of expression in Malaysia.
In 2011, the ruling coalition outlawed
the group and declared its activities illegal using force to disperse
the protesters who had gathered in the city centre calling for
political change. Bersih organisers and the protesters defied
the ban and gathered in the tens of thousands in May this year.
Bersih organisers challenged the
ruling in court and, last week, the High Court ruled in favour of
The situation up north contrasts
starkly with the abject situation here in Singapore where our
Judiciary refuses to uphold the rights of Singaporeans. Time and
again, SDP activitists have demonstrated that the PAP Government
issues a blanket ban on public assemblies in Singapore which
transgresses Article 14 of the Constitution.
In addition, while it stops protests by
opposition organisations, the Government allows assemblies and
processions conducted by pro-PAP groups. Such evidence has not
managed to change the minds of Singapore's judges.
Even when the Government introduces the
Public Order Act which prohibits even a singular person from
protesting, the Judiciary remains silent.
In the meantime, the freedoms of
speech, association and peaceful assembly guaranteed to Singapore
under the Constitution has been repeatedly trampled upon by the
In a system that abides by the rule of
law, the Judiciary acts as a bulwark against the overreach of the
Executive ensuring that no public official or organisation crushes
the fundamental rights of the citizenry.
Unfortunately in Singapore, it has
become the accepted norm that public protest is illegal and bad. The
island is mute even under the most provocative of PAP actions such as
bringing in foreigners to replace citizens.
Unfortunately too, this will be the
undoing of Singapore as a fearful citizenry quietly watches as
dissidents are repeatedly prosecuted whenever they stand up to