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Civil society NGOs now support crossover of MPs to Pakatan Rakyat

KUALA LUMPUR, 15 Sept 2008: Nine civil society organisations have come together to back the proposed plan by Pakatan Rakyat to get Barisan Nasional Members of Parliament to crossover to form the next federal government soon.

This represents a shift in position for these organisations – Borneo Resources Institute Malaysia (Brimas), Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ), Citizen Think Tank, Jaringan Tanah Hak Adat Bangsa Asal Sarawak (Tahabas), Migrant Care Malaysia, Persatuan Masyarakat Selangor & Wilayah Persekutuan (Permas), Pusat Kommunikasi Masyarakat (Komas), Research For Social Advancement (REFSA) and Youth for Change (Y4C).

They had previously been against such crossover of MPs – championed by Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) advisor and opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, and originally scheduled for 16 Sept 2008 – labelling such acts as immoral and unethical.

In a statement released today and endorsed by the nine organisations, they state that in light of recent events – namely the playing of the racist card by certain politicians, and the recent arrests under the Internal Security Act (ISA) – they now view the crossover plan with cautious optimism.

“Whilst this is not the most ideal path for a new democratic government to be formed, we are of the view that there are several historical and present mitigating circumstances that can make such a crossover not unethical, unprincipled or immoral as alleged by some government officials, mainstream press, commentators and activists.

“First of all, there is nothing ethical, principled or moral in remaining within the BN government which continues to perpetuate racial and divisive politics, human rights and democratic abuses.

“Despite the stunning losses of the BN in the recent general and by-elections to the opposition, nothing seems to have changed as internal reform within the BN is proving to be highly unlikely as further evidenced by Umno’s handling of the [Bukit Bendera Division Chief] Ahmad Ismail’s racially charged statements and the subsequent ISA arrests of top blogger Raja Petra Kamaruddin, journalist Tan Hoon Cheng and opposition MP Teresa Kok,” the statement said.

Raja Petra, Tan and Kok were detained on 12 Sept, though Tan was subsequently released a day later.

They went on touch on the legality of such crossovers, and pointed out that the issue has hitherto been associated with opposition MPs crossing over to the ruling BN.

“Although two wrongs do not make a right, it is of course unbecoming for the BN who had benefited from previous crossovers to suddenly bring up ethical questions of crossovers,” they added.

The organisations pointed out that in order for the crossover to command long term respect and legitimacy, the crossover must be done for the right reasons – reasons that are ethical and consistent with the demands of democratic, nation building and human rights ideals.

“We thus call all MPs concerned to state clearly and without reservation the reasons for their crossover and to pledge that they have not obtained or been promised any form of unlawful monetary and personal gains,” the statement said, adding that it is incumbent on the MPs to explain to their constituents why this crossover is necessary.

Should Pakatan Rakyat succeed in forming the government soon, the organisations want the coalition to initiate plans to hold a genuine free and fair general election within one year from the date of the change of government.

“In order for this to take place, public institutions like the police, the Attorney General’s Chambers, the judiciary and the Election Commission must be restructured and reformed accordingly to promote their independence, accountability and fairness which thus far have been abysmally poor,” they said.

Further, they added that the new Pakatan Rakyat government should try to return to the spirit and principles agreed upon in agreements signed in 1963 during the formation of Malaysia, and thus support changes and reform for more equitable political, civil, economic, social and cultural rights in Sabah and Sarawak.

The organisations also urged the police and the armed forces not to get involved in party politics and remain neutral and impartial in discharging their duties.

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