Some legal experts don’t think there is any legal basis for the Home Minister to pronounce the Bersih t-shirt illegal, any more than the police can regard and act on Bersih rally as an illegal activity. Lawyers are urging those arrested on account of wearing the Bersih t-shirt to sue the government!
Experts: Bersih T-shirts NOT illegal
The home minister comes in for a lot of flak for pronouncing that the wearing of Bersih T-shirts is against the law.
PETALING JAYA: Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein who said wearing yellow Bersih 2.0 T-shirts is illegal came under fire from lawyers and academics today who said he was “talking nonsense”.
Hishammuddin told the press this morning that the arrests of those wearing such T-shirts are justified as it is related to an illegal activity.
However, the experts said that he is wrong on both counts as neither the rally nor the T-shirt is illegal.
Professor Aziz Bari of Universiti Islam Antarabangsa asked which law Hishammuddin was referring to in declaring that T-shirts is illegal as there was none to his knowledge that supported the minister’s contention.
“It is too far-fetched and illogical,” he told FMT. “Since when is it an offence to wear a certain colour in public? The only provision that comes remotely close is acting indecently in public and I doubt that wearing a T-shirt is an offence. Hishammuddin is talking nonsense.”
Aziz added that Hishammuddin also needed to clarify under which law was the Bersih 2.0 rally planned for July 9 deemed an illegal gathering.
He pointed out that criminalising an activity is a parliamentary decision and not that of an individual minister or the police.
“There is no such thing as absolute power of the police,” he said. “In fact, it is illegal for the police to deny permits before the organisers submit an application. That would mean the police have pre-judged the rally, which is unfair.”
Fadiah Nadwa Fikri of Lawyers for Liberty rejected Hishammuddin’s statement outright, branding it an “abuse and misuse of power”.
“There is no such law prohibiting these T-shirts,” she said. “Furthermore, these T-shirts are not linked to an illegal activity because the Federal Constitution allows the right to peaceful assembly and the constitution is higher than any other law in this country.”
“Despite being elected into the United Nations Human Rights Council last year, Malaysia is still behaving in a barbaric manner.”
LoyarBuruk co-founder, Edmund Bon, meanwhile, pointed out that the law prohibited civilians only from wearing police and military uniform, while Article 10 of the Federal Constitution allows people the freedom to dress as they please.
“A rally is only considered illegal if it seeks to incite violence,” he added. “The intention of the Bersih rally is the complete opposite. Hishammuddin’s statement smacks of arrogance and is unacceptable.”
Lawyer says pre-rally arrests unlawful, urges Bersih to sue
KUALA LUMPUR, June 29 — PKR vice-president N. Surendran today described the ongoing round of pre-rally arrests of Bersih activists as “unlawful”, adding that all those detained could “sue the pants off” the government.
The human rights lawyer told The Malaysian Insider that there was no law in the country that allowed such pre-emptive arrests or for T-shirts to be declared as illegal.
In declaring Bersih’s yellow T-shirts illegal, said Surendran, Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein was attempting to play the role of an absolute monarch issuing a decree on his subjects.
“There is no law that says you cannot wear T-shirts with the word Bersih on it. There is no law that allows the arrest of individuals who [have not committed] any offence. The Bersih rally has not even happened yet… they cannot arrest people for inviting people to attend a rally or for announcing their intention to join the rally,” he said when contacted.
Surendran (right) said the police could only arrest protestors seen attending an ongoing illegal assembly, and not a moment before. The Bersih rally is scheduled for July 9, but the police have said it will not issue any permits for any rallies on the day.
“This is purely from a legal point of view. But here you have a situation where the police force is committing unlawful arrests on a daily basis… it goes against the Criminal Procedure Code and all laws in the country,” he said.
He was commenting on the ongoing spate of arrests across the nation, the latest occurring at the Sungai Siput wet market near Ipoh, Perak this morning when 14 people including two opposition assemblymen were detained.
The duo — Jalong assemblyman Leong Mee Meng of DAP and Teja assemblyman Chang Lih Kang of PKR — along with the rest of the group were picked up by the police while distributing miniature Jalur Gemilang flags. They were garbed in Bersih’s signature yellow T-shirts at the time.
“In this case, they were distributing Malaysia flags. Under the law, the cops can only arrest an individual if they have reasonable suspicion that a serious offence has been committed,” said Surendran.
Last weekend, the police also rounded up a group of Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) activists, including Sungai Siput MP Dr Michael Jeyakumar, accusing them of attempting to revive communism. The group had also stated their support of the July 9 Bersih rally. A number of opposition politicians have also been summoned to have their statements recorded over Bersih.
Earlier today, Hishammuddin declared T-shirts sporting messages in support of Bersih illegal, saying they were related to an illegal assembly. He did not, however, specify the legal provision the garments were deemed to have breached.
“And now the police are also seizing T-shirts from the Bersih secretariat office. There are arrests all over and we are sure that more NGOs will be targeted. You can expect that the tempo will only increase in the days head… this is an attempt by the cops to stop people from attending the rally,” said Surendran.
The police raided the office of the Bersih secretariat in Petaling Jaya around noon, and recorded details of those within the premises.
Surendran urged all those detained by the police to exercise their legal rights and sue the government for damages.
“They can now file civil suits… yes, I will certainly call upon everyone to sue the pants off the government and the police not just to obtain compensation but to teach them a lesson that they cannot abuse their powers. I call this an arrogance of power because they know they control the police and they know they control the courts so they think they can do as they please,” he said.
Surendran also expressed disgust at the court system, pointing out that it was “surprising” that the magistrates had allowed remand orders on those who were unlawfully arrested.
“From what has happened in the past week, we can say that our freedom is presently under siege,” he said.