Malaysia: Arrest of opposition leaders condemned

Three leaders of the People's Justice Party (Parti Keadilan Rakyat — PKR), a major parliamentary opposition party in Malaysia, were arrested on May 22 under provisions of a controversial new Peaceful Assembly Act.

The three were PKR de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim, PKR deputy president Azmin Ali and Badrul Hisham Shaharin.

The charges relate to the April 28 Bersih 3.0 mass democracy protest in the capital Kuala Lumpur, involving 100,000-200,000 peaceful protesters. The march was violently attacked by riot police after a few protesters pushed through police barricades.

If found guilty of the charges, they could be fined RM10,000 (A$3230) and prohibited from standing as candidates in a general election expected to be called soon.

The three were released on bail. Ibrahim told journalists outside the court that this was "political intimidation" by the government headed by PM Najib Razak.

"Najib is afraid to face me in elections. I want to tell Najib not to use the courts and the flawed law passed in parliament to intimidate political opponents."

The statement below was issued on May 22 by the Socialist Party of Malaysia (Parti Sosialis Malaysia — PSM).

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The PSM condemns the move by the police and the Attorney-General's Office to charge leaders of the Opposition in relation to the Bersih 3.0 rally, supported and endorsed by hundreds of thousands of people.

This act is definitely politically motivated and an abuse of power. It aims to create fear among the people and to remind the masses that the state will act against those who exercise freedom of assembly. This move puts to shame Najib’s political reforms and is a mockery.

The police, their leaders and the home minister must account for the hundreds of civilians, including journalists and human rights observers, who were abused and injured on that day. It is because of this the police have lost all their legitimacy to investigate any incident that occurred on the day. The police have completely failed to play their role.

PSM calls for all investigation into Bersih 3.0 to be conducted by the human rights group Suhakam or other independent bodies. We also call for all the charges against those exercising their democratic rights to be dropped immediately.

It is time for Najib and the Nation Front to realise that the Malaysian people have matured and will not be intimidated by this recent subtle crackdown.

Change will ultimately be decided by the people and not the state apparatus.