An event aimed at empowering the marginalised community has been declared unlawful. And the entity Seksualiti Merdeka is now blacklisted, its existence deemed dangerous to public order.
At least this is the lame excuse Deputy Inspector-General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar gave in justifying the ban against Seksualiti Merdeka on Nov 3, a day after its 11-day long festival themed “Queer Without Fear” kicked off at the Central Market’s Annexe Gallery.
The Seksualiti Merdeka festival, which celebrates the rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) community, has been an annual programme since 2008, taking place at the Central Market’s Annexe Gallery.
NGOs and political parties including PAS and Perkasa demanded nothing short of severe punishment for those responsible for festival, alleging it did nothing but promote a celebration of homosexual and transgender lifestyles.
Khalid has since imposed a blanket ban on any function related to the Seksualiti Merdeka programme, in the interest of public order.
So frightened are the ‘powers that be’ that they have ordered Khalid to summon former Bar Council president Ambiga Sreenevasan in for questioning.
The deputy IGP is obviously an ‘errand boy’ carrying out orders from the ‘higher up’, in this case from the country’s deputy premier Muhyiddin Yassin who said the Seksualiti Merdeka event was ‘immoral’ and a ‘waste of time’.
Had the deputy IGP done his investigation, he would know that.
Ambiga was not the organiser of the event. She was invited to inaugurate the festival and there is a big difference between organising and being a guest.
But do the cops in this country care if they slander or defame anyone, as was done by Khalid? They very clearly do not care less.
And how did Khalid conclude that the event was a threat to public safety so much so that Ambiga, among others, was hauled in for questioning?
In the meantime, Ambiga on Nov 4 issued a a statement making it clear that she was not one of the organisers but was invited to officiate the event on Nov 9 in her personal capacity.
Meanwhile, Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) has urged the Malaysian human rights body Suhakam to intervene and guide the police force on human rights.
PSM secretary-general S.Arutchelvam said the Malaysia Human Rights Charter recognised the rights of minority groups and that the police should know this and stop harassing them.
Arutchelvam said Article 1 to 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights and the LGBTIQ community was entitled to the same rights and freedom.
Politicizing a plea
As far as Seksualiti Merdeka festival organiser Pang Khee Teik is concerned the reason behind the police ban is this – the festival was to be officiated by Ambiga who incidentally is also the election watchdog Bersih 2.0 chairperson.
“I think it is because of Ambiga. It is being politicised.
“The government agencies are using every opportunity to rouse sentiments against Ambiga and (opposition leader) Anwar Ibrahim.
“We are mere collateral damage,” Pang had reportedly said.
Pang also accused the government of ignoring the innocent and marginalized segments of the community.
He stressed that the festival was an avenue to hear out the plight of the LGBTIQ community.
“All we are asking is for our side to be heard. That’s not illegal.
“The chaos that they are accusing us of is actually perpetuated by those who are trying to shut us up.
“We are pleased to know that Seksualiti Merdeka is as important as Bersih that it needs to be banned,” he added.
Since the nation’s leadership has declared the festival immoral, will it hurt Muhyiddin if all the LGBTIQ votes for the opposition?
If yes, then there is no bigger hypocrite in the country than the deputy premier himself.
It is a given that 10% of any community is gay and if these voters decide to shun BN, then God safe the likes of the deputy prime minister.
To deny the LGBT community the space, voice and forum and still expect them to remain loyal to the Barisan Nasional government is the biggest mistake Muhyiddin can make.
Regrettably, PAS instead of preaching compassion and empathy, proceeded to do the opposite by alongside a coalition of Muslim NGOs, demonstrating against the festival and that too after last week’s Friday prayers in Kampung Baru.
PAS’ spiritual leader Nik Aziz Nik Mat said he opposed the festival, saying all religions were against the practice of homosexuality.
Chiding the LGBT human rights, Nik Aziz’s convoluted take is: ”If human rights are sanctioned for the LGBTIQ community, would this give rise to the human rights to steal, murder and a host of crimes all bordering towards such rights?
“Therefore, it must be stopped with all our ability.”
Left unbridled, the injurious mix of politics and Islam will explode in the face of PAS, the very party which is dead adamant about implementing the hudud law in its home state of Kelantan.
Seksualiti Merdeka organisers have defined these attacks as “completely unjustified” and “ill-intended” and aimed at inciting hate against the LGBTIQ community.
If that was not damaging enough, the ’Ah Long’ scare tactic was used when red paint was splashed at the front entrance of the Malaysian Bar Council headquarters in Kuala Lumpur in the wee hours of Nov 4.
To the council, this dastardly act is certainly related to the Bar Council’s support for the Seksualiti Merdeka festival as pamphlets condemning the event were left behind.
“Such a reaction to the event is deplorable and must be condemned.
“Those who hold a different viewpoint on the festival should be civil and engage in discussion and dialogue,” Bar Council president Lim Chee Wee said.
Lim praised PAS’ Kota Raja MP, Siti Mariah Mahmud, who chided the detractors in Parliament and called for a more civilized approach in dealing with the issue.
Siti Mariah said she would have attended the event to gauge the sentiments of the community if the event was not banned by the police.
Thankfully, there is someone from PAS who is wearing a thinking cap and not shooting from the hip.
Maybe Nik Aziz can take a hint from Siti Mariah; it is never too late.
Jeswan Kaur is a freelance writer and a FMT columnist.