KOTA KINABALU: Sabah Bersih 2.0 has taken state Infrastructure Development Minister Datuk Peter Anthony to task for his recent statement which is seen as an attempt to silence civil society.
The election reforms group criticised Peter's statement that civil society groups such as PACOS Trust should not be "inciting people" and instead abide by the laws.
Citing a report published in a local daily, Bersih said Peter had also proposed an act to regulate the movements of non-governmental organisations.
The group described Peter's statement as an attempt to prevent civil society movements from expressing their voice to defend communities that will be affected by government projects.
"Statements like these are embarrassing and do not reflect on the people's aspirations when changing the previous government which constantly stifled the voices of the people.
"Civil society movements, especially those that represent communities that will be affected by mega projects by the government, are only amplifying the voice of the communities.
"These communities will be the one bearing the consequences of being pushed aside by the sites of government projects," said Bersih in a statement on Wednesday (July 10).
Bersih added that it was obligatory for Peter to respect the citizens' right to freedom of speech and expression as enshrined in Article 10 of the Federal Constitution.
"The people of Sabah changed the previous government with hopes that democracy and freedom of expression would flourish.
"A minister should be more open and understanding of the demands of the civil society movements, instead of threatening to control and silence the voice of the people," it said.
Bersih added that the government should respond to the people's doubts with facts and logic, and not with fear to the point of silencing dissenting voices.
The Parti Warisan Sabah-led state government has received a barrage of criticism for deciding to proceed with the controversial Papar Dam project, stating that it was for the long-term water needs of Sabah's west coast areas.