Freedom of expression is enshrined under international human rights law, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and in our Federal Constitution. Freedom of expression and speech underpins the fundamental right to seek and exchange ideas, opinions and information that would enable the public to form their own opinions and allow for dissenting or alternative positions, specifically on issues of public interests, and ultimately promote good governance and hold the State to account.
Article 10 of the Federal Constitution guarantees all citizens the fundamental right to form associations, to engage in peaceful assembly and promotes freedom of expression. Any restrictions to these rights must be legitimate, necessary, or expedient and proportionate in the interest of maintaining public order, morality, and national security.
The peaceful gathering held outside the Parliament building on 27 March 2021 was to demand the government to honour its promise to lower the voting age to 18-years-old, as well as implement automatic voter registration by July this year. The passing of the Undi18 legislation in parliament ensures that all Malaysians above the age of 18 have the constitutional right to vote. The government using the Movement Control Order (MCO) and Covid-19 pandemic as an excuse to deny this constitutional right is an attempt to undermine fundamental principles of human rights and it is giving the country a bad name on the global stage.
Therefore, we stand in solidarity with the Undi18 participants and organisers. We call on the authorities to unconditionally end any harassment or scare tactics against any protestors, for the Malaysian government to safeguard and respect the right to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression for all.