Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Bersih 2.0 is legal, judge rules

Bersih 2.0 is legal, judge rules

UPDATED @ 02:24:52 PM 24-07-2012
July 24, 2012
Malaysian Insider
KUALA LUMPUR, July 24 — Bersih 2.0 has been declared legal after the Kuala Lumpur High Court today quashed the home minister’s order last year that made the electoral reform group unlawful.
In her ruling today, High Court judge Datuk Rohana Yusof said the coalition of civil societies known as Bersih 2.0, though not officially registered, can be considered a society under the Societies Act.
“The minister’s order is quashed because Bersih is a lawful society,” Rohana said.

The home minister’s decision to declare Bersih unlawful on grounds the movement was a threat to national security was irrational and was not based on relevant facts, the judge said.

She noted that the then-Yang di-Pertuan Agong, Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin Shah, had granted an audience to the movement’s leaders in the national capital and the authorities had been willing to negotiate terms prior to the July 9 rally last year.

“It does not make sense, that a week later the reason is no longer valid... the government’s declaration that the organisation is unlawful cannot be accepted.

“Even if that is so, then the declaration should have been lifted accordingly,” Rohana said.
Prominent lawyer and former Malaysian Bar president Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan (picture) and 13 of her colleagues in Bersih’s steering committee had in July last year filed a judicial review seeking to get the Barisan Nasional (BN) government to lift its July 1, 2011 ban of the movement.

Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein had declared the movement unlawful, citing section 5 of the Societies Act 1966 as investigations had shown that Bersih 2.0 was not a registered organisation and that it was creating unease among the people.

The loose coalition of 62 registered civil societies led tens of thousands to demand for free and fair elections in the capital city on July 9 last year, which resulted in some 1,600 arrests but ultimately resulted in the government agreeing to set up a bipartisan parliamentary polls panel.

Bersih 2.0 also want the court to issue a restriction order against the authorities to stop government officers from entering and raiding its premises and to return all the Bersih 2.0 property and materials seized last September, ranging from the yellow T-shirts, posters, placards, pictures, members’ list.

Apart from Ambiga, the 13 other leaders named in the court filing are Maria Chin Abdullah, Datuk Toh Kin Woon, Zaid Kamaruddin, Dr Ahmad Farouk Musa, Arul Prakkash Sinnappan, Haris Fathillah Mohamed Ibrahim, Andrew Khoo Chin Hock, Liau Kok Fah, Wong Chin Huat, Datuk Yeoh Yong Poh and Yeo Yong Woi.

The group has since held another rally on April 28 this year to push for electoral reforms to be enforced before the 13th general election due soon.

“Bersih is now a legal organisation,” the group’s lawyer, K. Shanmuga, told reporters outside the courtroom.
It is not known if the government will appeal against today’s decision.

Senior federal counsel Azizan Md Arshad, representing the government, told reporters the decision was up to the Attorney-General.

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