Monday, November 14, 2011

BN, Sexualiti Merdeka, Freedom of Expression, Equality of Persons in Malaysia ..

There has been much discussion about 'seksualiti merdeka' and the banning of that event by the Malaysian government, even the Malaysian Bar which came up with a statement received a lot of discussion for and against the statement amongst lawyers.

For me, the issue is simple:-
* Freedom of Expression/Opinion and Assembly - This is the right that is accorded to all Malaysians that have been violated here.

** Equality of persons as guaranteed by Malaysia's own Federal Constitution..

The program was organized by a group of Malaysians, who are a minority but they do exist, and they allege that they have been discriminated against and the program was intended to create awareness about this minority group of persons, the issues that affect them.... and that is their right, irrespective of the fact that many do have a negative perspective about who they are or what they are all about, and this is complicated further because these positions are based on various religious belief and teachings - but, I believe that we should all be open to listen to this 'minority group' that have shown guts to not just identify themselves as being different but to also voice out the grievances and issues. It was sad that many choose to just 'condemn them to hell' - and not even bother to listen. I believe Malaysians are better than that...and many of us do treat them as human beings (and even friends) and with equality in our normal daily lives irrespective of their gender, sexual preferences/orientation, dressing, mannerisms, ... So let us not shut out their campaign to just be treated as human persons - remembering always that our Federal Constitution guarantees equality to all....OR we can just deny the fact that they do exist and continue on with our life...The choice is ours... 

It is also interesting to ask why in 2011, this has become an issue as this program have been publicly organized for many many years. Is it a desperate BN government's attempt to distract and maybe even win back some of the support of Malaysian voters that it has lost ...and have been continuing to lose since GE2008? 

Issues that matter, like the protest against Labour Law amendments, which will be most detrimental to workers and union rights whereby there was even a nationwide protest by about 10,000 Malaysians are ignored by the media...(or maybe just purposely 'blacked-out' -- remember this protest was on November 3, and the issue has been raised for many many months before... but no Media and certain quarters just choose to ignore this and focused on 'Sexualiti Merdeka' and Ambiga....Both issues are equally important but BN government chose which to focus on 2011. Any reason for is up to you, the reader to think about this...

Press Release: If Malaysia wants to be respected as a democracy, it must stop persecuting sexual minorities
Wednesday, 02 November 2011 02:05pm        
ImageThe Malaysian Bar welcomes the statement by Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib Tun Abdul Razak (“PM Najib Razak”) that he is the Prime Minister of “a progressive, liberal nation”.  Writing in an opinion piece published in the Sydney Morning Herald on 27 October 2011, PM Najib Razak went on to state that, “We are a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic society that has a long and proud history of social harmony and welcoming outsiders.”  

In Malaysia, the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (“LGBT”) community has long been treated as “outsiders”, even though they are citizens.  Members of the LGBT community in Malaysia face numerous hardships, including a lack of personal safety due to harassment by civil and Syariah authorities, living in fear of prosecution for the private acts of consenting adults, and constantly facing public discrimination and denigration.  They are perennially at the receiving end of negative innuendo and hate speech in the mainstream media, which is seemingly tolerated by the authorities.

The Malaysian Bar encourages PM Najib Razak to follow up on his words that Malaysia is a “progressive, liberal nation” and to alleviate the suffering of members of the LGBT community in Malaysia.  He can do so by quickly introducing laws to remove legislation that impose unwarranted restrictions on the individual liberties of the LGBT community in Malaysia.

From 1-13 Nov 2011, the Malaysian Bar is proud once again to support the annual Seksualiti Merdeka series of events, with this year’s theme of “Queer Without Fear”.  We recognise the LGBT community in Malaysia as one facing persecution on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. No doubt there are those amongst us who do not agree with the sexual orientations and gender identities of the LGBT community’s members. But it is precisely because of this that sexual minorities, and indeed other minority communities, need to be protected. Individual freedoms and liberties mean very little if they are only extended selectively, or to those who agree with the majority view. 
PM Najib Razak wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald that “Malaysia is not some repressive, backward nation that persecutes refugees and asylum seekers.”  The Malaysian Bar calls on PM Najib Razak to apply the same thinking with respect to the LGBT community in Malaysia.  If PM Najib Razak seriously wishes to convince his audience in Australia – and elsewhere in the Commonwealth and the world at large – that Malaysia is a “progressive, liberal nation”, he must act immediately to end repression, persecution and prosecution of sexual minorities in Malaysia.

Lim Chee Wee
Malaysian Bar

2 November 2011

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