By Shannon Teoh
KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 28 — Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan today called on the home ministry to revoke its ban on Bersih and fall in line with Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s democratic reforms.
The head of the electoral reforms group told reporters after being given leave by the High Court to challenge the ban that “this would be the easiest way” to solve the matter.
“He should support the prime minister and just revoke the order against Bersih,” she said, referring to Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein. “If not it is inconsistent with the stand of the PM.”
Najib had announced a raft of reforms in his Malaysia Day address including the repeal of the Internal Security Act and amendments to the Police Act to allow for freedom of assembly according to international norms, although street protests would still be outlawed.
The Umno president has gone to great lengths to win back middle Malaysia after international condemnation of the clampdown on the July 9 Bersih rally, during which police arrested nearly 1,700 and fired tear gas and water cannon to disperse tens of thousands of demonstrators calling for free and fair elections.
Najib has sped up the pace of reforms, announcing last month a parliamentary select committee on electoral reforms in a major concession to Bersih before giving greater freedom to the public in his Malaysia Day announcement.
The Barisan Nasional (BN) chief also promised that his administration would meet today to set a timetable for further law reforms.
In the order banning Bersih, Hishammuddin said the movement was “prejudicial to security interests” of the country.
Ambiga said today that revoking the July 1 ban would mean “not wasting time in working to be the best democracy in the world”, referring to Najib’s stated objective in announcing the Malaysia Day reforms.
The former Bar Council chief has previously pointed out the inconsistency of maintaining a ban on street protests while amending the laws to cater for the constitutional right to assembly.
“Peaceful street demonstrations are part and parcel of freedom of assembly,” she had said.