Cops haul up electoral reform activist for questioning
Electoral reform activist PY Wong was questioned by police today for an alleged offence related to his group Tindak Malaysia’s activities to train party workers to be polling, counting and barong agents (Pacaba) during the general election.
The NGO founder was questioned for over two hours at federal police HQ Bukit Aman from 9am.
He is being probed under Section 124(c) of the Penal Code for involvement in activities that disrupt parliamentary democracy or preparations for such.
He was accompanied by lawyers Farhana Halim and New Sin Yew.
It was reported in the media today that the probe is related to Tindak Malaysia’s workshops educating the voters on how to ensure secrecy of their ballot.
According to the NGO, voters at polling stations should demand a random ballot slip instead of the serialised one normally handed to them by the officer in charge.
Wong was quoted as expressing surprise that educating voters on their legal rights was an offence.
When met after Wong’s questioning was over at 11.30am, New said that he found police investigations into his client’s Pacaba training as “baffling”.
“It is as if (they are) saying that voter education is detrimental to parliamentary democracy.”
He believes that it fits a pattern of harassment by authorities as some of the questions asked to his client are similar to the ones that human rights NGO Suaram had been subjected to – including several questions into their funding.
He related that the investigations on Wong under Section 124 was based on a police report lodged in Changkat Jering on April 3, although they were not given details on who had lodged it, nor given any specifics on the matter.
Wong himself expressed disappointment with the way that the authorities are dealing with Tindak Malaysia.
‘Disagree through discussions’
He said that they have engaged with the EC and the parliamentary select committee (PSC) on electoral reforms about the Pacaba trainings.
He added that if they wanted to disagree with him, they could have done so through discussions and not by harassing Tindak Malaysia in this way.
A small group of supporters from Suaram and Tindak Malaysia had also turned up to show their support of Wong, mounting an impromptu protest outside Bukit Aman.
The police were watchful during the protest, but did not interfere.
Meanwhile, Suaram has condemned the investigations being done by the police, and are questioning the government’s motive in doing so.
They reminded that the police had asserted last week that the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (Sosma) would not be abused in the 13th general election.
The human rights group also quoted New as saying that more individuals have apparently been probed in relation to the coming election, although their identities cannot be verified.
“This is seen as police intimidation towards electoral reform activists,” said the NGO in a statement today.
Suaram added that using Sosma against activists did not make sense, especially considering that PY Wong is just an activist who organises activities to educate the public on the upcoming general election.
“If the police fail to explain the motive behind their probe, then it confirms the public’s fears that Sosma will be abused during the general election,” it said.
According to Suaram, Section 124(c) has been amended to be read in conjunction with Sosma. Therefore, this changes the definition in the Penal Code to say that anyone who carries out activities that threaten parliamentary democracy or makes any preparations to such an end, is liable for punishment.
Meanwhile at a separate press conference in Kuala Lumpur, Bersih co-chairperson Ambiga Sreenevasan has decried Wong’s questioning as a plot to undermine civil society groups – such as Tindak Malaysia and Bersih – ahead of the upcoming election.
‘Wong’s probe is a plot’
“The whole basis (of Wong’s questioning) is on the issue of randomising (ballot papers). Why did I say it is a plot? It all started with (former DAP national vice-chairperson) Tunku Abdul Aziz Ibrahimraising it, TV3 giving it extensive coverage, and everyone going on and on about how this is going to cause chaos at the elections.
“This is a build-up, in my view, for a final attack on Tindak Malaysia and Bersih,” she said.
Bersih steering committee member Maria Chin Abdullah (left in photo) added that an email has also been fraudulently circulated in her name, advocating for the randomisation of ballots, and that she will be lodging a police report over the matter.
Ambiga clarified that Bersih had never urged voters to randomise their votes.
Previously, she said, Tindak Malaysia had trained voters to ask clerks at polling centres to tear off a handful of ballots and allow the voters to pick one, hence ensuring that the ballot paper’s serial number could not be traced to individual voters.
However, Bersih raised objections against this as it would leave “loose ballots hanging around”, Tindak Malaysia has agreed to stop providing training on randomisation since October last year.
“Yet they are using this (issue) and they are bluffing. In this email (in Maria Chin’s name), you can see how far this plot goes.
“They are bluffing, they are making up stories, they are creating a situation of confusion so that action can be taken against Bersih as well as Tindak Malaysia,” she stressed.
Ambiga and Bersih steering committee member Andrew Khoo (right), both lawyers, also pointed out that it is not illegal to advocate for randomisation.
“The charge under Section 124(c) is for undermining parliamentary democracy by violent or unconstitutional means. Nobody is talking about violence or suggesting anything about violence.
“Even if we were to agree to randomisation – and I want to make it clear that we are not – is that unconstitutional? The answer is, ‘No’,” Khoo said.