KUALA LUMPUR, July 2 — Electoral reforms movement Bersih 2.0 has been declared illegal by the Home Ministry effective July 1 for causing “an atmosphere of unrest,” a week before its planned July 9 rally.
The ministry issued a four-paragraph statement outlining the reasons for the ban by Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein.
It gave three reasons for the banning of the movement, adding it was an unregistered group despite fulfilling all criteria to form an organisation under the Societies Act 1966.
The reasons given for the ban are:
i) Being active and sparking an atmosphere of unrest and worry among the multiracial community in the country;
ii) Spreading propaganda to incite the people to topple the government by distributing certain leaflets;
iii) Its activities have given a bad image to the country, which can threaten and undermine public order, security, economy and country’s sovereignty and affect the harmony of the multiracial community.
“Because of this, the home minister has declared the Bersih 2.0 organisation as going against the law under Section 5 of the Societies Act 1966 effective July 1, 2011,” read the statement signed by Registrar of Societies Datuk Abdul Rahman Othman.
Shortly after the declaration, PKR vice-president N. Surendran came out to condemn Hishammuddin’s action as unlawful, and added that it was also unconstitutional as the Federal Constitution allowed the freedom of association.
“How can a movement for fair elections be a threat to security? How can a peaceful assembly with a noble, democratic purpose be a threat to public order?” he asked in a statement tonight.
The human rights lawyer then said PKR wants the government to revoke the order and free all those held for involvement in Bersih.
Bersih 2.0 is a coalition of 62 groups seeking electoral reforms to provide for free and fair elections.
It has planned a rally on July 9 in the capital city to press for its eight demands, but police have said it will not allow any demonstrations on the day.
At least two other groups — Perkasa and Umno Youth — have said they will mount counter-protests against the Bersih rally.
The Najib administration has used state-run media and special sermons during Friday prayers at mosques yesterday to criticise the Bersih rally, which is the second such demonstration asking for electoral reforms.
The first in 2007 saw an estimated 50,000 people take to the streets in the capital city before they were dispersed by riot police armed with water cannons and tear gas.
Bersih 2.0 expects a higher turnout this year due to more widespread publicity courtesy of social media.
Pakatan Rakyat parties have ordered their members to support the rally, with PAS asking its one-million members to turn up on July 9.
Several rallies in support of Bersih are also being planned in major cities across the world on that day.