NGO slams Putrajaya’s ‘empty’ Sosma assurances

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KUALA LUMPUR: Assurances by the government on the proper use of the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012, or Sosma, are empty promises, said EMPOWER president, Janarthani Arumugam.

“We fear the raid on our office will not be the last time Sosma is used against human rights defenders,” she added in a statement.

EMPOWER stands for Persatuan Kesedaran Komuniti Selangor.

Sosma was supposed to be used for terrorist-related offences.

The NGO condemned the police raid on its premises, “and the interrogation of staff, without legal representation”, and “the attempts to tarnish its work”.

“There’s no law that forbids civil society organisations from receiving funds, whether local or foreign,” said Janarthani. “All funds received are based on objectives and activities under our Constitution.”

In fact, she said, her NGO had submitted annually all documents required by the Registrar of Societies, in reporting on yearly activities. “This includes audited financial reports.”

Janarthani said that EMPOWER’s efforts were out there for the world to see. “We are about securing equality and democracy for all, especially for women and marginalised communities.”

The police raided EMPOWER under Section 124c of the Penal Code and invoked Sosma. “They threatened our staff with detention for 48 hours, without access to lawyers,” alleged Janarthani.

She commended her staff. “They kept calm and cooperated with the police despite the threats,” said Janarthani. “They, and all of civil society, should never have been put in this situation.”

According to her, the raiding party appeared to be investigating Bersih 2.0’s funding.

“They took various files and financial documents,” she said. “These included EMPOWER’s general ledgers and profit and loss financial reports.”

Earlier, in condemning the arrest of Bersih 2.0’s Maria Chin, the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) had said that the government had assured in 2011 that “no individual will be arrested merely on the point of political ideology” under Sosma.

Suhakam advised the government to interpret laws in good faith and in accordance with their ordinary meaning, their context and in the light of their objective and purpose.