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10 Jan 2012

Seksualiti Merdeka challenges ban in Kuala Lumpur High Court

The Kuala Lumpur High Court will hear the judicial review application filed by committee members of Malaysia's only sexuality rights festival, which was forcibly cancelled by the police last November, on Feb 21.

Committee members of Malaysia’s only sexuality rights festival Seksualiti Merdeka, which was forcibly cancelled by the police last November, have filed a judicial review application at the Kuala Lumpur High Court.

The event, which comprises workshops, forums, talks, and performances, has been running largely without problems since 2008 with the support of numerous local and international organisations including the Malaysian Bar Council, sexual health group PT Foundation, local human rights NGO SUARAM, Women's Aid Organisation, women’s advocacy group Empower, Amnesty International and the United Nations.

The leave hearing – to decide whether the case was strong enough to merit further proceedings – was scheduled to be heard today by Judge Rohana Yusuf in chambers.

However, the lawyer for the applicants applied to adjourn the case after the respondents’ senior federal counsel Noor Hisham Ismail raised a preliminary objection against the judicial review application. The court then fixed Feb 21 to hear the objection.

The five applicants – festival co-founder Pang Khee Teik, Angela Marianne Kuga Thas, S Thilaga Socky Pillai, Siti Zabedah Kasim and Michelle Nor Ismat (whose name appears as Md Nor Ismat Selamat in court documents) – were represented by lawyers Honey Tan Lay Ean and Chew Siew Ting.

The Seksualiti Merdeka organising committee say in a statement published today that they seek that the ban be lifted and declared null and void, and that the police make available to them copies of all reports made against the event.

“We want to study them; we want to know who made the reports. But basically, it is within our rights to have access to them.” Pang told Fridae in an interview.

The application cited the Deputy Inspector General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar, the Dang Wangi district Deputy Chief Nor Azman Muhammad Yusuf, and the Inspector General of Police Ismail Omar, as respondents.

Speaking with Fridae, Pang says the Attorney-General objected to their application as the ban cannot be reviewed because it is a decision made to facilitate investigation and "not an administrative decision" and that "the rights advocated by SM event are not rights recognised under the Constitution and/or rights which are contrary to law and public morality".

In November, Deputy IGP Datuk Seri Khalid Abu Bakar warned in The Star newspaper that strong action would be taken against those who defied the ban.

He added: "Police received many protests from non-governmental organisations, including Islamic and non-Islamic organisations, which feared the programme could create disharmony, enmity and disturb public order."

In their statement issued today, the Seksualiti Merdeka organising committee slammed the Deputy IGP’s comments saying: “These claims are illogical and ridiculous. We hereby declare that the forums, talks and performances we planned to carry out last year were NOT deviationist, NOT disharmonious and NOT threatening to anyone, least of all our national security. The Deputy IGP has neither power nor basis to declare such a ban.”

Calling the ban “absolutely unconstitutional, illegal and undemocratic”, the Seksualiti Merdeka organising committee said they are “truly outraged by this blatant abuse of power against innocent citizens.” 

“The ban, the protests against our activities and all attempts to prevent us from expressing ourselves are irrefutable evidence of the discrimination faced by LGBTIQ Malaysians.” 

Acknowledging that while some may disagree with the festival, the committee says it in fact “supports their freedom to disagree just as (they) support everyone’s freedom to disagree.” 

“But by demanding that we be shut down, they have shown that they don’t understand the meaning of equality and will compromise the very right they are exercising. Their overwhelming existence and the imbalance of power in their favour show why we needed such a space for education, understanding and empowerment.” 

According to Angela who was quoted by Malaysiakini, the police did not convey the ban formally, but had 30 police personnel barged in and stopped one of the events on Nov 3.

“We decided not to continue as people present relied on us for their safety. How were we to go on under the atmosphere of intimidation and threat?” she said.

The police action came after vociferous condemnation by conservative and religious groups, including Perkasa, the Allied Coordinating Committee of Islamic NGOs and PAS Youth; and accusing the event organisers of “promoting” homosexuality.

Public debates about gay rights in Malaysia have become increasingly frequent in recent years with Seksualiti Merdeka, incidents of media censorship, Malaysia's first openly gay pastor Ouyang Wen Feng announcing the establishment of the nation's first gay affirmative church, the launch of a series of It Gets Better videos on Youtube featuring gay Malaysians including one Muslim man making local and international headlines.

Reader's Comments

Comment #1 was deleted by its author on 2012-01-10 19:11
2. 2012-01-10 19:11  
Go for it, again,and again, and again...until the morons have to hear
your side of the story.
Malaysian Judiciary independent and free: bears don't shit in the woods !
3. 2012-01-10 21:51  
I think it is just a political tricks from Barisan National.
They want votes as pilihanraya is coming.So they allow it now.
4. 2012-01-10 22:32  
stay strong, Seksualiti Merdeka!
5. 2012-01-11 00:01  
as an Indonesian to gay people in our sister country, Malaysia: be strong and fight for our dignity. my prayers are be with you all.
6. 2012-01-11 04:07  
I am surprise that Singapore has the same laws against gays as their neighbouring countries like Malaysia and Indonesia which are Muslims.
I think that it's about time to show that Singapore is more moderen and advanced then those two primitive states.
7. 2012-01-11 08:17  
Amazing to see strong Malaysian community artists standing up for ourselves!!!! :)

Re: zuza
the laws are not the same in Singapore/Malaysia and Indonesia. And the laws in Singapore/Malaysia have nothing to do with Islam. The sodomy laws are vestiges of Victorian-era British legislation.

And Indonesia actually does NOT have any laws prohibiting consensual homosexual sex.

Notwithstanding the role of fundamentalist / conservative Islam in trying to criminalise or prohibit homosexulity, it does both Islam AND our gay community a disservice to blanketly use Islamophobia to condemn entire nations/jurisdictions as 'primitive.' That makes us no better than homophobes who typecast us one way or another without understanding the nuances of our community.

(incidentally, most of the outspoken homophobes in Singapore are middle-class, ostensibly 'modern,' newly-Christian folks...)
8. 2012-01-11 13:14  
are u kidding me that Malaysia is on same planet as Canada as some of those Asian countries are so far behind in Human Rights!
9. 2012-01-11 23:23  
wow, i got featured here? cool!

10. 2012-01-12 07:13  
Nenih.. [Sentence deleted by Fridae moderator. Please refrain from personal attacks.] The laws may be of British origin but they have been maintained by Muslims. The main reason Islam survives is because it has remained intact and unquestioned, the reason being the Koran is the direct word of Allah and as such is beyond question. But what it really means is that Islam has become a laughable fossil that has had to ignore every discovery since the day Mohd popped off and took his fantasy god with him. Islam will never accept homosexuality because to do so is to accept that Mohd/Allah were wrong. Even the most liberal Muslim could not accept that
Comment edited on 2012-01-12 13:08:56
Comment #11 was deleted by its author on 2012-01-12 10:08
12. 2012-01-12 10:04  
Poster #3- Excellent point! Many if not all of that country's court cases are a farce...or as the locals put it, "wayang". Though to be fair,Malaysia's surrounding neighbours are more or less cut from the same cloth lol.
13. 2012-01-12 20:32  
Will be very interesting to see how this plays out. After Anwar's surprise acquittal, could this be the follow-up court shocker in Malaysia?
14. 2012-01-15 21:42  
How it plays out? It won't go anywhere......probably thrown out of court....
15. 2012-01-23 05:37  
PLU in Singapore might also want to challenge the Registrar of Societies' ban through the courts. Why couldn't LGBT communities in Singapore and Malaysia register a society to represent us?
16. 2012-01-24 20:41  
Good for Seksualiti Merdeka! I think they are in with a good chance.

I agree with @15. The ban in SG is based on imposing an irrational fundamentalist religious morality on the whole of society, rather than the well-being of the greatest number, which is what should be the basis of policy.

It is also contrary to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Singapore told the UN it doesn't discriminate against gay people, but obviously it does by denying gay people a voice to educate others out of their ignorance on the subject, as well, of course as criminalising us and denying equal rights. Enough is enough.
17. 2012-01-24 23:27  
Hey, still pride of place at the top of their Facebook page I see Church of Our Saviour, Singapore are still pushing their version of conversion therapy. They say:

" Essentially an sexual orientation conversation therapy of a religious nature, Choices uses the instrument of a safe for self-disclosure, self-discovery, change and growth, to achieve its purpose. It also emphasises on having a nurturing environment and network to support the conversion, so as to "discover life beyond the control of homosexuality." "

Shouldn't Fridae be reporting this to the Facebook authorities, who ban such homophobic nonsense on their pages?
18. 2012-01-25 19:40  
Did you know gay sodomy is already legal in Singapore by the repeal of 377 in 2007?

I learned something interesting from Wiki the other day. 377A only came into force in 1938, yes, 1938, not 1860s, and criminalised sexual activity between men other than anal sex, which was covered by 377…377A does not cover sodomy. The Victorian English law on which it's based has never covered sodomy. When 377 was repealed in 2007, it repealed criminalisation of sodomy for everyone. Leaving 377A to cover purely gay sex other than sodomy. So technically, so long as you do nothing except anal sex, it must be legal.

So all the talk of straws up noses in the parliamentary debate - totally irrelevant.
19. 2012-01-25 23:02  
I have some concerns and this is the only place to voice them. Do you think, with the changes at Fridae, that there is the risk of Fridae becoming too reactive, rather than proactive, e.g. no longer campaigning for and funding law reform?

I for one was worried that after the former CEO was charged, innocent or not, he could be open to pressure by the government if they so wished, to toe the line on Fridae, so long as charges were hanging over him. On the other hand, we do not know the position of the new Fridae administration.

I think we could do with some reassurance regarding the commitment of Fridae to actively supporting law reform in Singapore and Malaysia.

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