Civil society groups vow to continue pushing for reforms despite new administration

Danial Dzulkifly
The panel at the International Malaysia Law Conference at the Royale Chulan Hotel, Aug 15, 2018. — Picture by Hari Anggara

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 15 — Electoral watchdog Bersih 2.0 today said that the Pakatan Harapan government must be monitored as there are still key reforms that are yet to be implemented.

Speaking at the International Malaysia Law Conference (IMLC) at the Royal Chulan Hotel Here today, Bersih Chairperson Shahrul Aman Mohamad Saari said a change in government does not mean that the electoral watchdog duty is done.

“There are still key reforms that are yet to be carved in stone.

“Till then we will continue to monitor and keep pushing for reforms,’’ he said.

Sharul was speaking at one of the sessions for the IMLC titled “Civil Society Speaks” where civil society leaders speak on their role in fighting for reforms in the country.

Known for organising mega rallies, Sharul reiterated that Bersih had always been a law-abiding organisation.

“We have always been acting in accordance to the law, when organising the rallies, we had always informed the police of our routes and gave them the required notice.

However, Sharul said that under the previous administration, the police would issue statements citing that Bersih did not act in accordance with the law.

Also speaking at the forum was Rozana Isa, executive director of Sisters in Islam (SIS)

When asked by an audience on whether SIS was aware its views on Islam were unpopular with some Muslims, Rozana said they were aware that they were not accepted by all segments of the community.

“We are not under the illusion that everyone loves us or agree with us. The work that we do challenges norms and authorities and it has to do with religion.

“But when there is an injustice, we have to raise questions, we reserve the right to ask questions because things are done in the name of Islam.

“We know it might sit comfortably with others but we also need to ask the hard questions, “ she said.

Subsequently, Rozana said that she would like to see more trained progressive Syariah lawyers in the field.

“We do need more Syariah lawyers willing to take on very difficult cases so that there will be much more rigorous judgment in the Syariah courts,” he said.

Another speaker, Colin Nicholas, co-ordinator for the Centre for Orang Asli Concerns (COAC), said it is about time that the Orang Asli stood up for themselves, however, there is a need to help facilitate their needs.

“We were saying that they need to stand up for themselves for the past 20 years, but unfortunately the Orang Asli issue has become a popular thing and many have jumped onto the bandwagon to gain credit and so on, and that is where the problem is.

“Some are loyal to leaders or outsiders who might take advantage of them and that is a huge problem as we want them to speak up and fight for themselves,’’ he said.

“We as lawyers only facilitate what they cannot do in court so we have to work together,’’ he added.