Wednesday, August 13, 2008

NGOs continue to slam forum protesters

NGOs continue to slam forum protesters
by Tim

PETALING JAYA ( Aug 12, 2008) : The "mob" which forcibly disrupted a forum organised by the Bar Council last Saturday were branded as "terrorists" by Sisters In Islam (SIS) and strongly condemned by other non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

SIS programme manager Norhayati Kaprawi said violent acts of placing Molotov bombs in the Bar building and throwing similar bombs into a house formerly owned by Bar chairman Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan, severely tarnished the image of Islam and was "tantamount to terrorism".
Norhayati said in a statement today SIS believes it is the right of any Malaysian to discuss serious and pressing issues affecting them.

"The cases of Shamala and Subashini are issues that affect non-Muslim spouses and they have the right to discuss ways and means to solve any problems that might arise in terms of custody, inheritance or alimony. SIS strongly condemns violent acts of such nature and Malaysians cannot simply tolerate such violence."

She added that political parties which promised people the freedom of speech and human rights previously failed terribly and proved they can't fulfil their promises in their manifesto, as evident in Saturday's incident.

Suaram (Suara Rakyat Malaysia) said in a statement the disruption of the forum was a serious violation against freedom of expression.

"While standing firm in the principle of the right to hold peaceful demonstrations, Suaram deplores the threats and intimidations made by the protesters," the statement read.
"In particular, the actions of Kulim-Bandar Baru parliamentarian Zulkifli Nordin who instigated the crowd to storm into the Bar building must be condemned.

"That a forum merely intended to openly discuss real and pressing issues faced by our nation cannot be tolerated speaks volume of the worrying level of intolerance in Malaysia," it said.
Suaram also questioned the conduct of the police in handling the incident.

Another NGO set up to help citizens in trouble, Jerit (Jaringan Rakyat Tertindas), said freedom of religion was a fundamental human right enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 18) and guaranteed by the Federal Constitution (Article 11).

"This basic constitutional right should not be overruled by the authorities' or the mainstream interpretation of religion.

Jerit also slammed Parti Keadilan Rakyat and PAS for failing to stand by their promises made in the recent general election that discrimination against religions would not take place and freedom of religion will be upheld.

"Discussions on issues of religion should be allowed to take place in order to promote greater understanding and tolerance among various races and religion," Jerit's statement read.
In a joint media statement, the Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall, an umbrella organisation of more than 400 Chinese community-based organisations, called upon all Malaysians to categorically express their disapproval of the actions of a small minority that resorted to intimidatory action to stop the forum.

"While it is necessary for all Malaysians to be mindful of religious sensitivities, such respect must not extend to the condoning of extreme acts which are aimed at curbing legitimate public discussion.

"If the protest outside the Bar building had been civil and dignified, it would have been fully acceptable.

The statement also said it was unfortunate that there were abusive shouts such as "babi" (pigs) and "pengkhianat" (traitors) and that indicated an alarming level of religious intolerance.

The statement also commended PKR's prompt censure of Zulkifli Nordin's abusive behaviour and called on the authorities to fully investigate and bring the pepertrators to book.

seals: I will place the responsibility on the people who let the protest go without any arrest even after having found the Molotov bomb. And allowing the man to walkin to the hall. There was no tear gas or water gun.

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