Press Statement, 23 March 2013
Reject Political Violence
Over the past few months, as Malaysia edges ever closer to the 13th General Election, BERSIH 2.0 is alarmed to see an unprecedented escalation in political violence. The violence ranged from disruptions during ceramahs to physical assault by individuals affiliated with political parties. It is clear that the incidences are not isolated occurrences but part of a larger trend where violence is increasingly becoming a weapon of first resort.
Since January 2013, these are some of the incidences of violence reported by the media:
- On 4 February in Hulu Selangor, Selangor, a group of individuals alleged to be PERKASA and UMNO supporters disrupted a ceramah by Felda Settlers’ Children Association (Anak). The group physically assaulted members of PAS Unit Amal and allegedly put up roadblocks before the ceramah to prevent people from getting to the venue.
- On 12 February in Pekan, Pahang, 16 individuals physically assaulted members of Gerakan Mahasiswa PRU13 (GM13) who were distributing leaflets to the public. The chair of GM13, Syis Abdul Kadir, alleged that some of the perpetrators were seen coming out of the Pekan UMNO headquarters.
- On 20 February in Sembrong, Johor, alleged UMNO supporters disrupted a ceramah at the local PKR office by Anwar Ibrahim by throwing stones, pieces of wood and firecrackers. They also attacked his car, verbally assaulted him, and attempted to drown out his speech by blasting motorcycle horns and revving the engines.
- On 26 February in Gambang, Pahang, a group of alleged UMNO supporters disrupted a Pakatan ceramah and attempted to physically assault PKR vice-president Nurul Izzah Anwar at a ceramah in Felda Lepar Hilir 1. The group also verbally assaulted her. PKR Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad further alleged that local PKR leaders had been receiving threatening SMSes over the event.
- On 3 March in Teluk Intan, Perak, a group of individuals forced their way into a ceramah by MP M. Manogaran and verbally assaulted him, forcing him to be to escorted out by the police.
- On 7 March in Bukit Katil, Malacca, a group of individuals alleged to be supporters of UMNO hurled rocks and other projectiles at PKR’s “Jelajah Merdeka” campaign bus during a ceramah, resulting in injuries to two police officers, several individuals, and serious damage to the bus.
- On 15 March in Penang, alleged members of right-wing organisations attacked a car carrying PKR vice-president Tian Chua. The individuals kicked and punched the car, and threw a helmet and water bottles at it. They also allegedly intimidated members of the public present at the event Tian Chua was departing from.
- On 16 March in Penang, an unknown man hurled bricks at the Penang Gerakan headquarters, damaging the building.
- On 17 March in Penanti, Penang, a group of individuals alleged to be PKR supporters and local villagers threw eggs at the audience of a pro-Barisan Nasional ceramah in a public school and verbally assaulted those present.
The use of violence as a political tool is a form of dirty politics. BERSIH 2.0 is appalled that political leaders are condoning the violence by making excuses for the perpetrators or by staying silent. We remind all sides that political violence is a violation of not only the rights of the candidates contesting in the elections, but also that of voters. The use of political violence affects the ability of voters to make free and informed choices. It further entrenches within mainstream political discourse a culture of violence that is detrimental to democratic processes.
In light of the ongoing and escalating incidences of violence, BERSIH 2.0 is launching a “Reject Political Violence” campaign, aimed at candidates, political parties and the general public.
Over the next week, we will be releasing a model code of conduct for candidates for the 13th General Election. This code of conduct is based on accepted international standards, including the Inter-Parliamentary Union, of which Malaysia has been a member since 1967. We call on candidates and leaders of all political affiliations to show their commitment to clean and fair elections by openly condemning political violence and endorsing the code of conduct.
Most importantly, BERSIH 2.0 calls on the people of Malaysia to vote for peace by voting out politicians who perpetrate violence or condone it by silence. We also strongly encourage Malaysians to write to candidates contesting in their constituencies to urge these candidates to endorse the code of conduct.
An election free from violence is your right.
Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections 2.0 (BERSIH 2.0)
The Steering Committee of BERSIH 2.0 comprises:
Dato’ Ambiga Sreenevasan (Co-Chairperson), Datuk A. Samad Said (Co-Chairperson), Ahmad Shukri Abdul Razab, Andrew Ambrose, Andrew Khoo, Anne Lasimbang, Arul Prakkash, Arumugam K., Awang Abdillah, Dr Farouk Musa, Liau Kok Fah, Maria Chin Abdullah, Matthew Vincent, Niloh Ason, Richard Y W Yeoh, Dr Subramaniam Pillay, Dato’ Dr Toh Kin Woon, Dr Wong Chin Huat, Dato’ Yeo Yang Poh and Zaid Kamaruddin.