Drop All Charges against Wong Chin Huat,
Spokesperson for Bersih
I was concerned, upset and angry when I read from news on the electronic media that my good friend, Mr. Wong Chin Huat was arrested by the police last night, and that he will be charged under yet another oppressive law of the state, the Sedition Act. This action of the police must be in response to Chin Huat’s call, made on behalf of Bersih, a non-governmental organization dedicated to the struggle for clean, free and fair elections, to all Malaysians to wear black on this coming Thursday, the 7 May, as a further mark of protest against the illegal and unconstitutional grabbing of power in Perak by the Barisan Nasional. May 7 is, of course, the day when the State Legislative Assembly of Perak is scheduled to meet.
This action by the police against Chin Huat is most unwarranted and unjust. It marks yet another attempt by the state to quell dissent and silence protest, laying bare the hollowness of the slogan of the new Prime Minister calling for 1 Malaysia, People First and Performance Now. Such high handed and authoritarian actions by the police will not, however, overcome discontent as long as its root cause, which is the undemocratic and unconstitutional usurpation of power by the Barisan Nasional in Perak, is not removed. To add insult to injury, the Barisan Nasional has further exacerbated the already serious constitutional crisis in Perak by calling for a meeting of its State Legislative Assembly this coming Thursday, when the question of who is the legitimate Menteri Besar and hence, which coalition, the Pakatan Rakyat or the Barisan Nasional, is the legitimate ruling coalition, has yet to be decided by the High Court.
To most Malaysians, the planned action by Bersih is a legitimate form of protest against what they deem as a serious attack committed by the Barisan Nasional against commonly accepted democratic principles and practices. This latest action against Chin Huat will only add fuel to fire, further worsening the crisis. I call upon the authorities to immediately release Chin Huat and drop all charges against him.
If the Barisan Nasional government is serious about wanting to resolve the current crisis, it should immediately dissolve the State Legislative Assembly in Perak and call for fresh elections. The right to choose a new government must be returned to the people. Failure to do so will only prolong the problem and invite more protests that will be expressed in various forms. This is inevitable, as Malaysians of all ethnic backgrounds, religions and social strata love justice, fair play and democracy. As long as these generally accepted principles of governance are absent, they will protest. And the Barisan Nasional government will do well to note that no amount of coercion can stop them!
(Statement Issued by Dr. Toh Kin Woon, currently an Asian Public Intellectual Research Fellow at the Center for Southeast Asian Studies, University of Kyoto, Japan and former State Executive Councillor, Penang)