Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Bar Council, opposition condemn arrest of Wong Chin Huat - Sun

PETALING JAYA (May 6,2009) : The Malaysian Bar today condemned the arrest of social activist and writer Wong Chin Huat under the Sedition Act 1948.

Its president Ragunath Kesavan said: "The Bar is concerned that the police have resorted to the use of the Act yet again to stifle public opinion and dissenting voices that are unfavourable to the ruling government. The police should be above politics.

"The police must remain above politics to 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. Healthy and open debate on issues of public concern must be permitted," he said.

Ragunath, who condemned the manner in which Wong was arrested yesterday night and denied counsel, said the Bar was firmly opposed to the Act which he labelled an "affront to democracy".

"We reiterate our stand that authoritarian and repressive legislation such as the Act 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," said Ragunath who called for the release of the Coalition for Free and Fair Elections (Bersih) spokesman.

Wong's arrest was also condemned by Parliamentary Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim who defended Wong's call for all Malaysians to wear black in protest of the Barisan Nasional takeover of the Perak government.

"Wong's call to the public to wear black on May 7 as a sign of protest is an opinion that is not in breach of his rights as a citizen of Malaysia and the practice of democracy," he added.

DAP Socialist Youth (DAPSY) deputy chairman Jenice Lee called on all Malaysians to heed the call by Bersih to wear black today as a sign of protest over the Barisan Nasional (BN) takeover of the Perak State Assembly.

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