Ambiga: Non-Muslims must speak up when rights infringed

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The recent policies surrounding the ban on gambling and the sale of alcohol are infringing on the rights of the non-Muslims and it is time that they pushed back, lawyer Ambiga Sreenevasan said yesterday.

She said that while the government is aware that the policies limited the rights of non-Muslims, it does not care.

“This is how they encroach bit by bit into our lives,” she told The Malaysian Insight at the Malaysia Bar’s Lifetime Achievement Award 2021, of which she is the recipient.

“We have a duty to speak up on anything that impacts the life of Malaysians, which we find to be a breach of fundamental rights and human rights or oppressive.

Seth Akmal/TMI

“Everybody should loudly condemn what is going on. We look like fools in the international arena.”

Starting November 1, Kuala Lumpur City Hall has banned the sale of alcohol in mini markets, convenience stores, and Chinese medicine halls.

The PAS-led Kedah state government had also announced that it will ban all four-digit (4D) outlets in the state and that it will not renew licences for gambling operators.

Yesterday, Finance Minister Tengku Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz said the government will let the state government decide whether coffeeshops and restaurants need to apply for a licence to sell alcohol.

Ambiga said that the problem with many of these issues is that they revolve around religion which means people tend to stay silent.

“Whenever you put a religious gloss on any of these things, people will be scared to criticise. However, I don’t think we should be.

“I’m not prepared to be bullied into believing that some of us are second-class citizens. The last time I checked, there is nothing in the Federal Constitution that divided citizens.

“I’m not prepared to be told that the subjects of race and religion are off-limits because I am who I am. I’m not prepared to modify my conduct to suit anyone’s racism, extremism, and abuse.

“As far as I’m concerned, issues that impinge on the human rights of human beings, whatever their race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation, are never off-limits,” said Ambiga.

The prominent human rights lawyer also blamed the Islamist party for the recent policies.

“This is PAS’s contribution to government. They are trying to out-Islam each other rather than just govern properly. They just want to show who is the better Muslim.”

Time for a Bersih rally

Commenting on the recent ban on the Thaipusam procession on January 18, Ambiga said the government should lead by example.

“You cannot be hypocritical. If you tell them there are health issues, the people will listen.

“But they see you doing the opposite and it was very irresponsible; all of them self-congratulating each other and giving each other 90%…what nonsense!”

Yesterday, the 100 Hari Aspirasi Keluarga Malaysia event, held in Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre to celebrate Ismail Sabri Yaakob’s government’s 100 days in government, drew thousands of people.

The Ministry of Health yesterday fined the organiser RM1,000 for breaching Covid-19 standard operating procedure.

“I don’t blame people for being angry. But what I will say is, cool down. Let’s sort this out.

“Thaipusam is very important to the Indians. They would have probably not said too much if they hadn’t seen this Aspirasi Keluarga Malaysia event.”

Given the developments in the last two years where Malaysia saw three prime ministers, Ambiga said the time was now ripe for another Bersih rally.

“It’s time. How else are we going to express our anger? It’s time they realise that their actions have consequences. It’s a way to keep them accountable.”

The Sheraton move in 2019 saw the elected Pakatan Harapan government ousted after 22 months in office. Following that, Muhyiddin Yassin was appointed as the new prime minister, taking over from Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

Muhyiddin’s tenure too was short-lived as he resigned after 17 months in office. In those 17 months, Malaysia saw three lockdowns to curb the speed of Covid-19. He also put the country under an Emergency.

In August this year, Ismail replaced Muhyiddin as the ninth prime minister. – TMI