17 July 2011

Protests outside Malaysian Embassy in support of 'Bersih' movement

Jakarta Globe - July 12, 2011

Ismira Lutfia -- In a show of solidarity with Malaysian activists calling for electoral reforms in their country, a number of Indonesian civil society organizations staged a rally on Tuesday in front of the Malaysian Embassy in Jakarta.

Chanting the word "bersih," Malay for "clean," 20 protesters representing the Alliance of Civil Societies for Clean Malaysia tried to erect a banner reading: "Bersih Malaysia Bersih Indonesia," or "Clean Malaysia Clean Indonesia," at the embassy's gate.

The protestors also mimicked the act of cleaning the gate with mops and brushes. Some of the protesters were also wearing masks depicting characters from the popular "Upin & Ipin" animated children's show, which is set in rural Malaysia.

One of the protesters said the rally was not intended to meddle in the neighboring country's domestic affairs, but that it was meant to serve as a reminder to the Indonesian government to make good on its own promises of reform and democratization that began a decade ago following the fall of President Suharto.

"Indonesia should also push for democratization in Malaysia considering that this could affect many Indonesians there, and this is also a wake-up call for Indonesia not to return to what we were before," said Haris Azhar, the chairman of the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras), referring to the huge number of Indonesian migrant workers in Malaysia working as housemaids and construction and plantation laborers.

Kontras was one of the nongovernmental organizations united under alliance, along with the Institute for Policy Research and Advocacy (Elsam), Indonesia Corruption Watch (ICW), the Legal Aid Foundation (LBH) and the Human Rights Working Group, among others.

Wahyudi, a representative from Elsam, demanded that Malaysian authorities release protestors detained in Kuala Lumpur during protests there since Saturday. The activist said the Bersih protestors were reminiscent of the Indonesians who took part in the reformation in 1998. "As a neighboring country, Indonesia should also set an example for Malaysia," he said.

Nurkholis Hidayat from LBH said the alliance thought it necessary to stage the rally despite having no formal affiliation with the Coalition For Clean and Fair Election movement, or Bersih 2.0., in Malaysia.

"We are doing this in respect to the universal values of human rights and freedom of expression and we are against the detainment of Malaysian activists who rallied peacefully in the name of those values," Nurkholis said.

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