Hornbill Unleashed

April 29, 2014

Malaysia not democratic, Bersih tells Obama

Filed under: Politics — Hornbill Unleashed @ 8:04 AM
Tags: , , ,

Hafiz Yatim

Bersih 2.0 chairperson Maria Chin Abdullah has pointed out to United States President Barack Obama that Malaysia is not a moderate and democratic country as many perceive.

Maria, who among the leaders of 10 Malaysian civil society organisations who met Obama yesterday, said she told the US leader that what Malaysia has at present is a minority government.

She voiced her concern that Malaysia under Umno and BN may move to extremism and this could be seen with Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak’s support for hudud.

“Malaysia is not a democratic or moderate nation, as we have a minority government that needs to cling to the Muslim base, and therefore allows religious extremism go unabated and without reprisals,” said Maria.

The Bersih leader said Obama noted the opposing view and promised to bring up the matter if there was an opportunity.

Other issues that were brought-up by Bersih during the 50-minute meeting yesterday included electoral reform, the problems of gerrymandering, the lack of action since the Sabah royal commission of inquiry, the existence of repressive laws such as the Sedition Act and other laws used against civil society leaders, as well as the rights of migrant workers.

Allah, religious minority issues highlighted

Council of Churches Malaysia general secretary Rev Dr Hermen Shastri highlighted pointed out the ‘Allah issue’ debacle which Obama, who responded that he was aware of the matter.

Hermen (right) also voiced concerns over the issue of minority religious rights against the larger majority of Muslims.

“Obama, having an activist background in Chicago, understood the plight pertaining to the rights of minorities,” he said.

Obama, Hermen said, was attentive and despite each of the civil society groups initially being given one minute to speak, the event at the Ritz Carlton Hotel yesterday lasted 50 minutes .

Hermen said while Obama said the United States could not interfere in the domestic affairs of a country, he viewed the issues of discrimination and human rights seriously.

The Allah debacle followed the ban on the use of the word “Allah” by Christians in Peninsular Malaysia, following its usage being barred in the Catholic weekly the Herald.

This matter is now before the Federal Court, where the application of the Catholic Church for permission to appeal the Court of Appeal ruling banning its use of the term Allah is still pending.

The country also recently saw copies of the Bahasa Malaysia version of the Bible being seized from the Bible Society of Malaysia premises. The copies have yet to be returned.

Bar expresses concern over old laws

Malaysian Bar president Christopher Leong describe the meeting with Obama as intimate, saying that issues pertaining to the rule of law, the re-introduction of detention without trial laws, the use of the Sedition Act against civil society, the stifling of freedom of speech and expression and the use of the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984 to control the media were raised.

These include the use of the Sedition Act against political leaders like Tian Chua, Karpal Singh and student leaders like Adam Adli. Leong said Obama noted that some legislation are stifling human rights and freedom of expression.

Issues of ethnic and religious tensions, which are tearing at the fabric of Malaysian society, were also brought up, said Leong (right).

“Obama recognises our concerns and the work we do, the work of our respective organisations being important and in my case, the work of the Bar Council and Malaysian Bar.

“He is supportive of our work and efforts to address important issues affecting civil society and Malaysia as a whole.

“All of us agreed that it is important for Malaysia and the US to work for moderation, elimination of unfair discrimination and promote adherence to and respect for the rule of law.”

He also sent a note expressing concern over US support for Israel over the Palestinians, citing that violence goes against human rights.

Leong also brought up the issue of the Guantanamo Bay detainees who are being held without trial and Obama noted that this was one of the policies he had fought for and had not obtained Congress approval.

The Bar Council president said Malaysia should not be called a Muslim country but a majority Muslim country.

Obama, said Leong, also stressed what was important is that the Malaysian NGOs continued to work and strive for improvements.

“President Obama and I recognise, and agree, that Najib’s instincts are for moderation and unity.

“However, there are elements outside and within Najib’s party that makes the prime minister’s efforts in this regard a challenging task.

“The Malaysian Bar will support the PM’s efforts for moderation, unity and harmony as this is vital for the country’s trade and economic growth,” Leong added.



  1. Reblogged this on Ivory Low and commented:
    Malaysia is Malay Communist.

    Comment by Ivory Low — May 1, 2014 @ 11:20 AM | Reply

  2. Can this Obama guy be trusted? That’s the question in everyone’s mind.

    Comment by Sharpshooter — April 29, 2014 @ 10:15 PM | Reply

  3. If Najib can unashamedly boasted to Obama that he and his minority government is a legitimately and democratically elected government. It is only right that members of the civil society lead by Ambiga, Maria, Christopher etc are able to on behalf of 52% of Malaysian tell Obama how Najib and gang actually stole GE13 through massive fraud, suppressed and violated basic human rights of Malaysian, undermined the independent of the judiciary etc.

    Comment by Gary — April 29, 2014 @ 11:57 AM | Reply

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