Monday, November 21, 2016

Solidarity for Democratization Movement in Asia (SDMA) statement 2016



Malaysia: Asian human rights NGOs condemn arbitrary travel ban on 2016 Gwangju Prize for Human Rights awardee, Maria Chin Abdullah 2016 Gwangju Prize for Human Rights awardee
Maria Chin Abdullah was not allowed to travel to South Korea. 

Author: Shahnawaz Khan

The Malaysian authorities should stop arbitrary travel ban on the Coalition for Free and Fair Elections (Bersih) democracy activists who have been calling on free and fair elections and democracy in Malaysia.

1. On 15 May 2016, Malaysian authorities stopped Bersih democracy activist Maria Chin Abdullah from traveling to South Korea. She was going to receive the 2016 Gwangju Prize for Human Rights on behalf of Bersih 2.0. Solidarity for Democratization Movement in Asia (SDMA) condemns the Government of Malaysia’s continuing harassment and intimidation against Bersih democracy activists. The Malaysian authorities should respect right to freedom of movement of Bersih democracy activists.

2. Bersih means ‘clean’ in Bahasa Malaysia. Bersih has been calling for law reforms on free and fair elections since 2010 through peaceful campaigns. Approximately 500,000 people in 65 countries around the world joined the latest Bersih solidarity protests in 2015. 2016 Gwangju Prize for Human Rights is awarded to Bersih due to their constant struggle for human rights and democracy in Malaysia.

 3. Despite of the fact that international community has been supporting Bersih, Malaysian government has branded Bersih as unlawful protests. During the Bersih protest in 2011, 1,667 were arrested while around 50,000 people participated. In 2012, police used excessive force towards peaceful demonstrators including using pepper spray to disperse the crowd.

Furthermore, in December 2015 Hishamuddin Rais, a social activist and member of Bersih 2.0 Steering Committee was also refused to travel outside Malaysia. He was scheduled to travel to South Korea as a part of international human rights monitoring delegation. Other Bershi activists Mandeep Singh, Adam Adil and Nik Nazmi have been also subject to judicial harassment under the Sedition Act and Peaceful Assembly Act.

4. Recently Malaysian immigration introduced a policy that if someone disparages Malaysian government while abroad, the person would be barred from leaving the country for 3 years upon their return.

SDMA would like to remind Malaysian authorities that the right to freedom of movement is stipulated under the Article 9 of Malaysian Constitution as well as Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We urge Malaysian government to stop harassing Bersih democracy activists and immediately lift the travel ban against them. Instead of blaming democracy activists for disgracing reputation of Malaysia, the authorities should uphold democratic values and promote human rights.

Solidarity for Democratization Movement in Asia (SDMA) Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), Regional Asia / Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID), The Philippines / Imparsial, the Indonesian Human Rights Monitor, Indonesia / Odhikar, Bangladesh / People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy (PSPD), Republic of Korea / The May 18 Memorial Foundation, Republic of Korea The Solidarity for Democratization Movements in Asia (SDMA) has been launched at the ‘2010 GWANGJU ASIA FORUM’ on 21st May 2010, in conjunction with the 30th anniversary of the May 18 Gwangju Democratic uprising. The May 18 Memorial Foundation has been hosting the International Network Meeting for the past 11 years as a foundation process to establish a regional network for acting among democracy advocates, human rights defenders and social movement activists based on the collective experience of the struggle for democracy and human rights and a sense of solidarity created among the participants. Its main purpose is to promote regional cooperation for democratization based on people’s rights and empowerment vis-à-vis repeated violence and atrocities inflicted by states as experienced in different societies in Asia. The SDMA will inclusively act for Asian solidarity from the bottom up to protect and promote democracy and human rights. 

20th Gwangju Asia Forum 2016

20th Gwangju Asia Forum 2016

Gwangju Asia Forum is an annual event of the May 18 Memorial Foundation and this year it was held under the big theme named “State Violence and Historical Distortion” in Korea. The especial Guest of the Gwangju Asia Forum was a human right and Ex-President Timor-Leste, Mr. Kay Rala Xanana Gusmão , he  also previously received the Gwangju Prize of Human rights. There were a number of sub-events under this bigger theme. These sub-themes are under below.

1: Gwangju Prize for Human Rights 2016 (GPHR)
2: The Solidarity for Democratization Movements in Asia (SDMA) 
3: The Solidarity for Social Justice (SFSJ)
4: Grass-root Session workshop

1: Gwangju Prize for Human Rights 2016:
The Gwangju Prize for Human Rights is an award given by May 18 Memorial Foundation to recognize "individuals, groups or institutions in Korea and abroad that have contributed in promoting and advancing human rights, democracy, and peace through their work.
This year the GPHR award was awarded to basis



a)      Organization basis, this year Bersih (NGO) from Malaysia
Bersih has been calling for law reforms on free and fair elections since 2010 through peaceful campaigns. Approximately 500,000 people in 65 countries around the world joined the latest Bersih solidarity protests in 2015. 2016 Gwangju Prize for Human Rights is awarded to Bersih due to their constant struggle for human rights and democracy in Malaysia.

b)       Person basis: Dr. Que Ann from Vietnam
Dr. Que`s quest for freedom for his people and the persecution he has suffered have inspired men and women around the world to speak out on his behalf. Among them, the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Center for Human Rights presented Dr. Que with the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award. Inspired by his courage and his persistent determination to fight for a free and democratic Vietnam, the US Congress honored him by passing Joint Resolution SJ 168. President Clinton subsequently signed it into Public Law: 103- 258 designating May 11 as Vietnam Human Rights Day.
2:  The Solidarity for Democratization Movements in Asia (SDMA) 
SDMA is a highly innovative network of the Asian NGOs and this year the main theme of SDMA was “How to claim shrinking Democratic Space in Asia”.  The May 18 Memorial Foundation invited participants from the Bangladesh, Maldives, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Philippines, Nepal, Myanmar, Thailand, and participants shared their countries status regarding democratic and human rights situation. The SDMA participants urged their governments they should follow the ICCPR and UDHR. Thus, the common people can enjoy and fruits of democracy and human rights. End of the SDMA session it issue a statement too.

3: The Solidarity for Social Justice (SFSJ)
The SFSJ is one of the new initiates of the May 18 Memorial Foundation and it mainly provides space to discuss the criminal Justice system in Asia and it flaws. Most participants came from the Asia and South Asia. The South Asian participants from Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Philippines shared the almost same situation. Most of the countries judicial and criminal institutions have decade old system, it several flaws and corrupt, so common people unable to get benefit from it. 

4: Grass-roots organization workshop
The May 18 Memorial Foundation, first time invited Asian grass-root organizations and provide them a platform to share their activities with Korean partners. End of the workshop the Foundation provide them laptops and small funds to support their activities.

Gwangju Asia Forum was my first assignment at May 18 Memorial Foundation, which I mainly coordinated and mainly involve in the arrangements of the international participants. Through this activity, I (Shahnawaz) and Rini worked on the development of the concept of the SDMA. Further, I also lead the Grassroots organization workshop 2016. It is amazing and great chance from to meet with several NGO and human rights activists and it was really wonderful learning step for me. I am really happy that with the great support of my partner Rini International intern, we both successfully done it.