While it is necessary for all Malaysians to be mindful of religious sensitivities, such respect must not extend to the condoning of extreme acts which are aimed at curbing legitimate public discussion.

In the specific case of the Bar Council seminar, we are given to understand that it was primarily an effort aimed at helping to clarify various legal and administrative provisions on religious conversion issues. The forum could have provided useful inputs on helping resolve recent controversial developments had it not been unfairly misrepresented by various quarters, including the Government.

In fact, the organizers had taken the initiative to invite distinguished speakers from the Federal Territory Religious Affairs Department and Institute of Islamic Understanding Malaysia (IKMI). Both speakers however declined invitation apparently after the forum was demonized by some quarters

We uphold the right of our fellow Malaysians to exercising their freedom to dissent and even to engage in peaceful demonstration in defence of their concerns. If the protest outside the Bar Council had been civil and dignified, it would have been fully acceptable.
Unfortunately this turned out not to be the case. Although no violence ensured, the resort of rough action and abusive shouts of “babi” (pigs), “pengkhianat” (traitors) and “balik China” (return to China) indicate an alarming level of religious intolerance by this small minority. This is completely unacceptable to us and all right thinking Malaysians.

We also note with dismay the police submission to the pressure of the protesters and their “advice” to the organizers to bring about a premature end to the meeting. This guidance follows closely on the government’s own earlier reaction to the planned event and its attempt to compel the organizers to call off the event. The blatant double standards employed by Government and police in dealing with the protestors and the forum subject raises questions about the even handed and fair treatment accorded to all religions that the Government and authorities claim is happening in the country.

In this connection too, we would like to express our disappointment with the participation of the members of three political parties, UMNO, PAS and PKR as well as two parliamentarians, Zulkifli Nordin (Kulim-Bandar Baru) and Sallahudin Ayob (Kubang Kerian) in the abusive group of demonstrators. The top leadership of these three parties must instruct their members to avoid looking out for opportunistic or narrowly partisan political and religious advantage at the expense of national interest. PKR leaders’ prompt censure of Zulkifli Nordin’s abusive behaviour is therefore commendable and exemplary.

Finally we note with concern and condemn the petrol bombs attack directed at the previous house of Bar Council President Dato’ Ambiga Sreenevasan. We hope that there is no connection between that act and the role of the Bar Council in organizing the seminar and call on the authorities to fully investigate that action and bring the perpetrators to book

The Undersigned Organizations:

1.Centre for Policy Initiatives (CPI)
2.Civil Rights Committee of Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall (CRC-KLSCAH)
3.Civil Society Initiative for Parliamentary Reform (CSI-Parliament)
4.Council of Malaysian Indian Trustee
5.Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram)
6.Malaysia Youth and Student Democratic movement (DEMA)
7.Persatuan Kebajikan Cahaya Wawasan Selangor
8.Persatuan Kebajikan Bharatham Selangor
9.Persatuan kebajikan Vanniar Klang
10.Pertubuhan Belia Hindu Pelabuhan Klang
11.Writer Alliance for Media Independence (WAMI)
12.Youth Section of Kuala Lumpur & Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall (KLSCAH-YS)
13.Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ)
14.Monitoring Sustainabiliy of Globalisation (MSN)

After 12-8-2008
13. Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ)
14. Monitoring Sustainabiliy of Globalisation (MSN)
15. Group of Concerned Citizens
16. Persatuan Sahabat Wanita, Selangor (PSWS)
17. Sisters In Islam (SIS)
18. Women’s Aid Organisation (WAo)
19. Persatuan Masyarakat Selangor dan Wilayah Persekutuan (PERMAS)
20. Pusat Komunikasi Masyarakat (KOMAS)

This signature campaign is initiated by Civil Rights Committee of Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall (CRC-KLSCAH) and Writer Alliance for Media Independence (WAMI).

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