PETALING JAYA: The organisers of the recent Women's March 2023 have lambasted the police for its heavy-handed response toward peaceful protestors.
In a statement on Monday (March 13), it condemned the actions taken by the police against the participants, speakers, organisers and observers of the Women's March Malaysia 2023 (WMMY).
"The press statement issued by the PDRM on March 12, which was followed by Notice 111 sent out to seven participants, speakers, and organisers of WMMY in the middle of the night, marks a troubling precedent against democratic action under the newly-elected unity government.
"We recall and remind this current government of its long history of democratic actions and expressions and the use of public assembly and protests over the last several decades prior to its coming to power," it said, adding that they were disheartened and disappointed at being penalised for exercising their democratic rights to fight for a better Malaysia.
It asked if they did not deserve to express thoughts, talk about the issues that plague the lives of one too many people, and ask for changes that will create the Malaysia Madani the unity government wanted.
"The 'I' in Madani stands for 'ihsan' which asks for us to treat everyone, especially minorities, with empathy and kindness.
"Our demands are meant to highlight to the government nine areas that must be addressed immediately to ensure that the basic rights of everyone are no longer trampled upon in Malaysia," it said, adding that Article 10 of the Malaysian Federal Constitution clearly states that every citizen has the right to freedom of speech and expression, all citizens have the right to assemble peaceably and without arms.
It said the organisers of Women's March 2023 took all the necessary steps to inform relevant authorities and follow the rules and regulations in place before the march.
"Malaysia has an obligation as a signatory to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (Cedaw) to ensure the full protections of human rights for women and girls, including transgender people and sexual minorities.
"The heavy-handed reaction of the police against peaceful protestors at a Womens March will reflect badly on Malaysia's upcoming Cedaw review this year, shining light on the disproportionate use of police powers on a national and international level," it said adding that the police should refrain from investigating and charging anyone merely for exercising the fundamental right to peacefully assemble, instead allocating priority towards more pressing injustices raised during the Women's March, such as child marriage, online and physical gender-based violence, and protecting groups facing marginalisation.
It said that this was a critical time for the newly-elected government to show its commitment towards improving its human rights record by making it an obligation to assess the impact towards citizens' rights in peaceful assemblies.
"We urge the government to address the trust-deficit of citizens towards our core institutions, and restore public confidence by acting on the accepted UN recommendation 151.147: revise the Peaceful Assembly Act in order to eliminate discrimination and hindrance to the freedom of association and peaceful assembly.
"If that is the vision for a new and improved Malaysia, why are the authorities going against the very principle of what the Malaysian Government claims it stands for?" it asked.