wear black (and it's not CNY)

Wear black to protest Wong's arrest

Ong Kian Ming | May 6, 09 8:01am

As news about the arrest of academic and activist Wong Chin Huat under the Sedition Act continues to filter in, a few things appear clear to me.

Firstly, the initial promise that the new administration under Najib Abdul Razak would be more accepting of criticism and adopt a more ‘liberal’ approach towards political dissent, which was hinted at when he freed two Hindraf activists who were detained under the ISA soon after he took office, has been quickly dashed by this latest act.

It is sad that Wong, one of Malaysia’s most promising young political scientists, currently teaching at a private university, was targeted, most probably because of his activities in advocating for electoral reform under Bersih - just to mention one of his more prominent roles - and specifically because of his role in urging the Malaysian public to wear black in conjunction with tomorrow’s sitting of the Perak state assembly.

Are the actions of a civil society activist and academic so threatening as to warrant his arrest under the Sedition Act?

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This is what key personalities had to say about Wong's arrest.

Anwar Ibrahim, Opposition Leader

I regret the action of the police in arresting Wong under the Sedition Act.

His request for the people to wear black tomorrow is just a mean of protesting via a legal and democratic manner.

His arrest has also revealed the true face of Prime Minister Najib's one-month old administration.

I urge the government to drop all investigations on Wong and that he be released immediately.

Dr Toh Kin Woon, former Gerakan state exco member, Penang

This action by the police against Wong 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 BN has exacerbated the already serious constitutional crisis in Perak by calling for a meeting of its state legislative assembly (tomorrow), when the question of who is the legitimate menteri besar and hence, which coalition, the Pakatan Rakyat or the BN, is the legitimate ruling coalition, has yet to be decided by the (Ipoh) High Court.

To most Malaysians, the planned action by Bersih is a legitimate form of protest against what they deem to be a serious attack committed by the BN against commonly accepted democratic principles and practices.

This latest action against Wong will only add fuel to fire, worsening the crisis. I call upon the authorities to immediately release Wong and drop all charges against him.

If the BN 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.

Lim Teck Ghee, director of Centre for Policy Initiatives

The police action is clearly aimed at intimidating civil society organisations and the public into passivity and acceptance of the power grab in Perak by the Barisan Nasional.

There is not an iota of evidence to charge Wong or any of the other speakers (at the Bersih press conference yesterday) under the sedition or any other law or regulation in the country.

The police action smacks of an unreformed and authoritarian political system, desperate to cling to power by whatever means, and utilising the police and other agencies of the state to coerce and browbeat the Malaysian public into acceptance of its power grab, and other acts of mis-governance.

The public should regard the arrest of Wong as another round in the salvo of BN dirty tricks and should show that it is not cowed by wearing black (tomorrow).

Lim Kit Siang, DAP leader (in his blog)

Start of Najib's crackdown? Is it because of the '1Black Malaysia' campaign? (referring to Bersih's campaign is urging the public to wear black tomorrow).

Ragunath Kesavan, Bar Council chairperson

The Malaysian Bar is concerned that the police have resorted to the use of the Sedition Act 1948 yet again to stifle public opinion and dissenting voices that are unfavourable to the ruling government.

The police force must remain above politics, and regain public confidence as an institution not mired in politics. It must not be seen as a tool to intimidate and cow those who express disagreement.

The arrest of Wong, seemingly for the ‘crime' of advocating that those who disagree with the events unfolding in Perak wear black tomorrow, does not augur well for the prime minister's promise of openness and respect for the people.

The Malaysian Bar also condemns the manner in which Wong was arrested and denied his right of access to counsel yesterday night.

We reiterate our stand that authoritarian and repressive legislation such as the Sedition Act 1948 is an absolute affront to democracy. We strongly urge the government to repeal the Act, and to refrain from using it, particularly against those whose viewpoints differ from the ruling government's.

Wong Chin Huat must be released immediately.

Anil Netto, Aliran activist

I am trying to fathom why activist Wong was arrested for sedition. So much for '1Malaysia'. If you ask me, it's all public relations.

Now, all that public relations exercise has been stripped (away) and we can see the reality.

Khoo Kay Peng, corporate consultant and an independent political analyst

Wong is a respected lecturer, socio-political activist, writer and a member of the civil society.

He has written extensively on the electoral process, democracy, race relations and others. His arrest under the controversial Sedition Act is a national shame.

In the true spirit of 1Malaysia, the government should drop all charges against Wong for exercising his democratic rights.

Malaysians are smart enough to decide if they are going to follow Wong's suggestion or not to wear a black armband, T-shirt, etc (tomorrow).

What is wrong with black? Is it becoming a forbidden word or colour too?


Perng Shyang said…
I have asked some friends to be in black tomorrow, and hopefully the whole campus in black too!
sp lim said…
....hopefully the whole campus in black too!

Will be proud of STM if that happens.