JOINT PRESS STATEMENT BY CONCERNED MALAYSIANS ON 22 JANUARY 2008:
We, the undersigned civil society groups and concerned citizens of diverse ethnic, religious and cultural backgrounds, stress that all Malaysians have the right to choose their representatives and the government in a free, fair and clean election. No individual politician or political party should resort to threats or intimidation to influence the voter’s decision.
We lament that Datin Paduka Chew Mei Fun, MCA MP for Petaling Jaya Utara, as reported in the China Press on January 21 (Monday), has conveyed this fear-mongering message to the public: “If there is insufficient Chinese representation in the Barisan Nasional, it is not a good thing, the Chinese community cannot afford another May 13 incident.”
The May 13 ethnic riot in 1969 was a dark chapter in Malaysia’s political history where political violence and manipulation overshadowed the democratic process as well as the voice of the people. Invoking the bitter memories of this tragic incident for political gain is a huge insult to those who died, the surviving victims and their families. This veiled threat to voters not to support the opposition parties is shameless and unbecoming of a responsible political leader.
If Chew is aware of certain quarters planning to use violence in response to a certain electoral outcome, she who has been speaking tirelessly on public safety should lodge a police report immediately and assist in the police investigation.
If she is merely speculating, we are truly disappointed that she has stooped so low in fishing for support. Politicians should not behave like gangsters. They should not use the threat of violence to solicit vote, as gangsters do to extort money.
By making this statement, Chew has in fact violated Section 9 (1) of the Election Offences Act 1954:
9. (1) Every person who, before, during or after an election, directly or indirectly, by himself or by any other person on his behalf, makes use of or threatens to make use of any force, violence, or restraint, or inflicts or threatens to inflict, by himself or by any other person, any temporal or spiritual injury, damage, harm, or loss upon or against any person in order to induce or compel such person to vote or refrain from voting, or on account of such person having voted or refrained from voting, at any election, or who by abduction, duress, or any fraudulent device or contrivance impedes or prevents the free exercise of the franchise of any elector or voter, or thereby compels, induces, or prevails upon any elector or voter either to give or refrain from giving his vote at any election, or who directly or indirectly interferes or attempts to interfere with the free exercise by any person of any electoral right shall be guilty of the offence of undue influence.
While waiting for the Election Commission to investigate and lodge a police report, we call upon Chew to do the honorable thing. She should retract her statement and apologize unreservedly for her fear-mongering act. She must condemn unreservedly the use of political violence in Malaysia.
Voters must be assured of their right to vote for any candidate or party of their choice in an environment that is free from fear and intimidation.
We also call upon the Prime Minister Dato’ Seri Abdullah Badawi to disassociate his administration and party from Chew’s fear-mongering statement and condemn unreservedly the use of threats and intimidation on voters.
We must not let Malaysia become a failed state where political violence rules, like Pakistan. We must not allow any party to ‘play with fire’. We categorically reject anyone who uses the spectre of May 13 as a bogeyman to threaten Malaysians.
All individuals or civil society organisations in support of democracy may endorse this statement by displaying a copy of this statement on their premises, vehicles or the front page of their blogs or websites, until Chew retract the statement and apologizes.
Civil Society Organisations:
Coalition For Clean and Fair Elections (BERSIH)
Group of Concerned Citizens (GCC)
Writers Alliance for Media Independence (WAMI)
Malaysian Voters Union (MALVU)
Save Ourselves (SOS Penang)