The Home Minister now has to clarify why his stance on Bersih, which was declared illegal last year, seems to have changed.
PETALING JAYA: The Kuala Lumpur High Court today ordered Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein to provide further clarification on the outlawing of the Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih) last year.
High Court (Appellate and Special Powers Division) judge Rohana Yusof asked for an explanation as the minister’s recent statements about the Bersih 3.0 rally did not seem to be in line with his original decision to declare Bersih 2.0 an illegal movement before the July 9 rally last year.
Recently, Hishammuddin said that the government did not regard Bersih 3.0 as a “security threat”.
He said that a rally would be allowed if it did not break any laws and he even pledged to assist the electoral reforms group to procure a suitable venue for its rally this Saturday.
Lawyer Aston Paiva, who is representing Bersih in challenging the government ban, told FMT that Rohana today ordered senior federal counsel Azizan Md Arshad and federal counsel Najwa
Bistamam – representing the government – to have Hishammuddin file an affidavit by May 10.
The judge made the order when meeting both parties in chambers today, he said.
“Basically what she said was that she is taking notice of the fact that there are Bersih activities taking place this week and that the minister’s response seem not to be in line with the original order that it is an unlawful society. She wanted him to clarify his position on Bersih,” said Aston, with lawyer Honey Tan.
Aston said that the judge has also fixed May 15 for her to decide on an application to cross-examine Hishammuddin and Inspector-General of Police Ismail Omar.
She would also decide on a request by the Bersih lawyers to obtain additional documents, mainly the 1,706 police reports lodged against the Bersih 2.0 rally.
Said Aston: “It is not actually something odd; she [Rohana] did the same thing for the Lynas matter recently, ordering the Atomic Energy Licensing Board to file an affidavit to explain themselves. It’s just to assist her. I’m sure she wants to reach the right decision.”
Bersih’s other lawyers, K Shanmuga and lead counsel Tommy Thomas, were not present today.
In the main case, Bersih 2.0 is seeking to quash the order declaring it an unlawful society in the judicial review it filed on July 8 last year.
The applicants are 14 members of the movement’s steering committee, including S Ambiga. The respondents are the Home Minister, Inspector-General of Police and the government.
On Sept 28, the High Court granted leave for a judicial review.
Bersih 2.0 is seeking an order of certiorari to quash the Home Minister’s order dated July 1, last year declaring Bersih 2.0 an unlawful society and a declaration that the order is null and void and of no effect.
Bersih 2.0 had argued that it is a coalition of 62 NGOs and civil societies and had no political parties in the coalition.
As such, the Registrar of Societies (ROS) could not deem Bersih 2.0 illegal as it was a “movement” and not a society by virtue of the fact that it was a coalition with no fixed membership, Bersih 2.0 said.
In the application, Ambiga and the others stressed that Bersih 2.0 aims to achieve electoral reforms peacefully and therefore could not be considered a threat to national security.
The application accuses Hishammuddin of using his powers for ulterior purposes rather than out of a genuine desire to preserve public order.