Image credit: http://media.themalaysianinsider.com/images/uploads/2012/april2012/29/m_ambiga.jpg
Yesterday, the High Court has dismissed the federal government's claims against electoral reforms group Bersih for damage to properties during their 2012 rally in Kuala Lumpur, saying Putrajaya was unable to prove on the balance of probability.
In May 2012, Putrajaya took the unprecedented step of suing then Bersih co-chair Ambiga Sreenevasan and the group's steering committee members, as rally organizers, for damages of RM122,000.
The government filed its suit against Ambiga under Section 6(2)(G) of the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012 which states that organizers must “ensure that the assembly will not endanger health or cause damage to property or the environment”.
But in June 2012, Ambiga filed a counter suit against Putrajaya, alleging that the government had breached her constitutional rights. Among other things, the former Bar Council chair charged that the PAA was against the Federal Constitution, particularly Section 6 which she said restricted her right to freedom of assembly.
Judge John Louis O' Hara also allowed a claim for unlawful arrest, detention and assault by police against Wong Chin Huat, a member of the steering committee and awarded him RM 21,000 in damages. The judge awarded Wong another RM30,000 in costs. [Wong later said the RM21,000 would go to a freedom fund set up by Bersih vice-chairman Thomas Fann in support of any Malaysian affected in exercising his constitutional right].
O’ Hara also dismissed Putrajaya's claim for a declaration that as organizers of the rally, Bersih must be held responsible for damages caused to public property, including police vehicles.
"It is clear to this court that the damages that occurred only happened after Ambiga had called off the rally”, he said.
The court’s decision is most welcomed. Malaysians saw stupidity first hand when the government initiated the lawsuit against Bersih. It was an act of frivolous flippancy, a futile folly that is a waste of public funds, time and effort. The BN government is indeed filled with so much frippery.
I am certain Malaysians want Bersih to continue to hold rallies in pursuit of clean and fair elections. We await the next rally!