Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM) condemns the arrest of 8 youth and student activists in Kota Kinabalu and the unnecessary physical violence used to disperse a peaceful protest. The arrest of the 8 today marks the 10th youth and student activists arrested within the period of a week.
The right to peaceful assembly is a right guaranteed under Article 10 of the Federal Constitution and serve as one of the key foundations of a democratic society. The right to peaceful assembly should not be curtailed and the government holds the duty and responsibility to ensure that the rights of people to organize and participate in peaceful assemblies are protected.
The decision to disperse the peaceful assembly through the use of force by the state government of Sabah and the Royal Malaysian Police is a violation of Article 10 of the Federal Constitution. As an administration which has promised to uphold reform and protect human rights, the Pakatan Harapan administration must investigate into the conduct of the Kota Kinabalu City Council (DBKK) and the Royal Malaysian Police on this matter and dismiss or suspend officers who have ordered the dispersal and arrest of peaceful protesters.
Any attempts by Pakatan Harapan administration to defend and justify the action of those involved in violating the right to peaceful assembly is untenable and hypocritical as they were also the victims of such oppression in the past and cried foul against it. Now that the shoe is on the other foot, the Pakatan Harapan administration cannot wash their hand of the responsibility that falls on them when state apparatus violates the right to peaceful assembly.
Furthermore, it should be noted that the fact that Pakatan Harapan administration is open to public dialogue does not mean that the Pakatan Harapan administration can deny people their right to peaceful assembly; and give the administration the moral authority to belittle those who chose to express their thoughts and beliefs through public protests. The victory savoured by Pakatan Harapan now was attained through the blood, sweat and tears of all Malaysians who had protested against the injustice on the streets of Malaysia.
SUARAM would like to caution the Pakatan Harapan administration on the lack of clear action against state agencies such as the Royal Malaysian Police who violates human rights with impunity. The human rights violation perpetrated by state apparatus is and will be seen as the failure of the Pakatan Harapan administration and the administration is the one that must answer for these failings.
The denial of civil liberties and human rights contributed to the downfall of the Barisan Nasional administration. The failure to address the human rights violations and oppression perpetrated by state agencies would bring about the same fate for Pakatan Harapan administration.