It was a victory of historicproportions in Malaysia, yet it barely registered a ripple in thenews here in Singapore. Last week, a Malaysian court ruled againstthe Barisan Nasional (National Front) government’s ban againstBersih (Clean) and its rallies.$CUT$
High Court Judge Rohana Yusof quashedHome Minister Hishammuddin Hussein’s order made in 2011 thatoutlawed Bersih. (See here)
“Thedecision to declare Bersih unlawful was made without taking intoaccount some relevant facts or by taking into account irrelevantfacts,” the Judge said. “The decision to outlaw Bersih impingeson the rights guaranteed under the Federal Constitution and shouldnot be taken in just a lackadaisical manner.”
Bersih, a coalition of NGOs, has staged massive annual public rallies in Kuala Lumpur demanding freeand fair elections and freedom of expression in Malaysia.
In 2011, the ruling coalition outlawedthe group and declared its activities illegal using force to dispersethe protesters who had gathered in the city centre calling forpolitical change. Bersih organisers and the protesters defiedthe ban and gathered in the tens of thousands in May this year.
Bersih organisers challenged theruling in court and, last week, the High Court ruled in favour oforganisation.
The situation up north contrastsstarkly with the abject situation here in Singapore where ourJudiciary refuses to uphold the rights of Singaporeans. Time andagain, SDP activitists have demonstrated that the PAP Governmentissues a blanket ban on public assemblies in Singapore whichtransgresses Article 14 of the Constitution.
In addition, while it stops protests byopposition organisations, the Government allows assemblies andprocessions conducted by pro-PAP groups. Such evidence has notmanaged to change the minds of Singapore’s judges.
Even when the Government introduces thePublic Order Act which prohibits even a singular person fromprotesting, the Judiciary remains silent.
In the meantime, the freedoms ofspeech, association and peaceful assembly guaranteed to Singaporeunder the Constitution has been repeatedly trampled upon by theruling PAP.
In a system that abides by the rule oflaw, the Judiciary acts as a bulwark against the overreach of theExecutive ensuring that no public official or organisation crushesthe fundamental rights of the citizenry.
Unfortunately in Singapore, it hasbecome the accepted norm that public protest is illegal and bad. Theisland is mute even under the most provocative of PAP actions such asbringing in foreigners to replace citizens.
Unfortunately too, this will be theundoing of Singapore as a fearful citizenry quietly watches asdissidents are repeatedly prosecuted whenever they stand up toprotest.
When will we learn?