Democracy is about allowing all quarters to express their views, says Bersih

Bersih 2.0 says the International Women’s Day marchers were asking for protection and not promoting their lifestyle. (Facebook pic)

PETALING JAYA: As the debate over the rights of the LGBT community continues, electoral reforms group Bersih 2.0 says democracy is about allowing all quarters to express their views and concerns in a peaceful manner.

It took to task Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Mujahid Yusof Rawa for accusing some groups of abusing the democratic space by using the 2019 International Women’s Day march held yesterday to defend LGBT rights.

In a statement, Bersih’s steering committee reminded Mujahid that Article 10 of the Federal Constitution guaranteed every citizen the right to freedom of speech and expression, peaceful assembly and to form associations.

It said although the government did not have to agree with the views expressed or issues championed, it should “listen and understand, even if after doing so, one disagrees”.

“As a minister of a democratic government, Mujahid should not restrict or condemn any group that wishes to highlight its concerns,” it said.

Bersih commended the Pakatan Harapan government for allowing peaceful gatherings, such as those against the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (Icerd) and the “Melayu Bangkit” and “Defend Prophet Muhammad” rallies.

However, it said it was concerned with the posture taken by Mujahid and various politicians and groups against the LGBT community as it would encourage further hate and discrimination against them.

“It was reported that one of the five key demands of the women’s march yesterday was to end violence based on gender and sexual orientation.

“Every person has a right to protection from violence and discrimination under the law. To demand for such protection is different from promoting a certain lifestyle, sexual orientation or ideology,” it said.

The steering committee said it was also appalled by Mujahid’s statement that the organisers of the march would be investigated under Section 9 of the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012 for not applying for a permit.

“We wish to remind the minister that PH has promised to abolish draconian provisions in the PAA and Penal Code on peaceful assembly.

“The constitutionality of Section 9 is in question and should not be used against peaceful demonstrators.

“We call on Malaysians and the PH government to reflect deeply on the matter of democratic space and take this opportunity to discuss concerns raised by those who hold protests and to affirm civility in our society,” it said.