Aussie govt must meet UN obligations
Published: Fri, 12 Apr 2013
THE Australian government must show moral and political leadership to address Malaysia’s dangerous descent into violence, escalating racial tension and manipulation of electoral rolls as the country heads into its most critical federal elections in history.
Global Bersih - the international arm of Kuala Lumpur-based electoral reform group Bersih - calls on Prime Minister Julia Gillard to request that Foreign Affairs Minister and ALP Senator Bob Carr reconsider his stance of non-interference, after Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim recently called on the Australian government to help ensure Malaysia’s 13th general election is conducted freely and fairly.
Given Australia’s claim in upholding democratic values and political freedoms in the region following its new membership of the United Nation’s Security Council, Australia’s ALP government and Senator Carr have an obligation to publicly call on Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and his Umno-led Barisan Nasional government to respect and observe free and fair elections in practice as well as in principle.
A statement calling on David Cameron’s British government to similarly act will also be issued today in Britain.
The statement calls on all British politicians, including the First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs William Hague, as well as the Labour Party and Shadow Secretary for Foreign Affairs Douglas Alexander, to put political differences aside and together address the “democratic deficit” in Malaysia.
Another statement detailing the serious issues presented below will also be sent to UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, the UN Security Council and UN Human Rights Council.
Global Bersih refers the Australian government to widespread reports of death threats against opposition politicians and NGO leaders and burgeoning allegations of fraudulent voter rolls, which Najib’s government is openly unwilling to address or rectify.
When Malaysia’s parliament was dissolved on April 3, Defence Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi wrote on Twitter: “We shall move to the warzone to kill all adverse political intruders.”
Last month, at a rally led by Home Affairs Minister and Umno vice-president Hishammuddin Hussein, his supporters threatened to kill opposition MP and PKR vice-president Tian Chua, chanting “Kill Tian Chua” when roused to support Umno and its allies.
Elsewhere, the opposition’s meet-the-people sessions have been violently disrupted by motorcycle gangs, unchallenged by the police force.
The Malaysian government is fanning the sort of racial tensions that erupted into 1969’s race riots, which saw thousands of Malaysians die, many at the hands of the armed forces.
Today, Malaysians believe the riots were engineered to bolster Umno’s position after election setbacks that year.
A much-maligned and government-funded cinematic depiction of the riots, “Tanda Putera”, is now being screened.
The film blames the violence on the opposition and minority races. Rural Malays are being openly bussed by the hundreds to “private” screenings amid a Malaysian Cabinet ban on “public” showings.
In the past week, leading opposition MP and PKR vice-president Nurul Izzah Anwar had her case against the Election Commission thrown out of court, despite presenting evidence of 4,773 dubiously registered voters in her constituency.
The number of suspect new-voter registrations included 133 non-residents and three dead people. The number of dubious names on the rolls totalled 7 per cent of her electorate.
There is mounting evidence of tens of thousands of “phantom” voters - people who don’t exist - registered on the electoral rolls, including for Sabah and Selangor, two key states that could potentially tilt this year’s election outcome.
Malaysia’s longest-serving premier, Dr Mahathir Mohamad, continues to promote his message of fear and division in the compliant, state-owned media, raising concerns that his and Najib’s party Umno are more determined than ever to steal these elections.
Critics of the Najib government continue to be slandered and frozen out of taxpayer-funded media networks and government-licensed newspapers and broadcasters, and the Opposition has been given only 10 minutes to present its election manifesto to Malaysians via state-controlled TV and radio.
Mahathir and other members of Najib’s party have called for civil society leader and Bersih 2.0 co-chair Ambiga Sreenevasan to be stripped of her citizenship, and have also threatened her with violence at her home.
The Najib government continues to accuse Bersih 2.0’s calls for electoral reform - which have been supported by hundreds of thousands of Malaysians in peaceful public rallies over the past three years - as a “foreign-backed plot” to overthrow the 56-year-old Barisan Nasional regime.
Global Bersih believes it is entirely in Australia’s interests to support these Malaysians.
As a close and long-standing friend of Malaysia, Australia has an obligation to ensure democracy is unfettered, rather than turn a blind eye while supporting the Najib government’s empty rhetoric of reform.
Global Bersih calls on all Australian politicians, including the Liberal Party and the Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs, Julie Bishop, to put political differences aside and together address the democratic deficit in Malaysia.
Malaysia now stands at a crucial point in its history. Australia can and must play a critical role in ensuring a close UN member, Co mmonwealth friend and long-standing ally like Malaysia heeds its democratic obligations and respects the rights of its citizens without resorting to widespread violence, intimidation and electoral fraud.