Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM) condemn the police action in arresting the organiser of a public forum – Ong Boon Keong and for intimidating a peaceful forum to discuss local public interest issues.
PRESS STATEMENT: 2 JULY 2002
It is also reported that Ong might be charged for an offence under Printing Presses and Publication Act.
SUARAM is of the opinion that the whole police presence at the forum, the arrest of the organizers and confiscation of the newsletters, is a clear attempt to stifle public discussion and is politically motivated. The action by the police is a gross violation of Article 19 and 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which guarantees people freedom of statement and information and the right to gather peacefully with other people.
The Penang State Government should allow the public the freedom to discuss these issues openly without intimidation as the issues are of public interest and concern. Sabotaging and intimidation public discussion is an attempt to hide the truth surrounding the controversial Penang Outer Ring Road (PORR). The State Government should address these concerns rather than hide behind the police force and intimidate its citizen from discussing these issues.
It is also sad that the public forum which is to be held at Dewan Sri Pinang had to be shifted to another venue as the booking was cancelled without any reason. We see this as a desperate attempt by the authorities to suppress public opinion on this issue. The organisers then had to move the forum to a private office. Here there was a large turnout by police when the actual number of participants only numbered around 30 people. This action by the police can only be interpreted as a malicious attempt to create fear and intimidate the people present at the forum.
The police and the state Government should in fact address the core issues highlighted in the newsletter ‘Alamak Penang" rather than going on technicality on the legality of the newsletter.
SUARAM calls upon the State Government and the police to respect the rights of people to gather and receive information as enshrined in the UDHR and the Constitution. It is only through public discussion, information and debate can the interest of the people be represented fairly in a democracy.