Thursday, 5 November 2015

Court overturns ban on pro-Sarawak rights group

KUCHING, Oct 30 ― The High Court today reversed the home ministry’s decision to ban a local civil society group, nearly a year after the pro-Sarawak rights movement was declared illegal by Putrajaya.

Datuk Rhodzarian Bujang ruled that the ministry’s decision to ban the Sarawak Association of Peoples’ Aspirations (SAPA) was irrational, illegal, unconstitutional and without basis.

“As of today, SAPA is no longer an illegal society,” the group’s counsel Dominique Ng Kim Ho told reporters after the judge made her ruling in chambers.

Ng said the judge agreed with his arguments that SAPA was not given the chance to respond to allegations made against them before the ministry declared that it was illegal on November 14 last year.

He added that five out of the nine police reports lodged against the group had nothing to do with a public forum organised by SAPA, where a panel speaker had allegedly made seditious remarks.

SAPA president Lina Soo said the court ruling vindicates their position that Sarawakians have every right to speak out against any perceived violation of the Malaysia Agreement 1963 and the accompanying Inter-Governmental Committee (IGC) Report ― which were signed by Malaya, Sabah, Sarawak and Singapore to formalise the formation of the federation.

“Now that SAPA has been declared legal, we will speak against any violation of the MA63,” she said, referring to the Malaysia Agreement.

In a federal gazette published on Nov14 last year, Zahid  gave his “opinion that SAPA is being used for purposes prejudicial to the interest of the security of Malaysia and public order”.

Subsequently, the RoS deregistered SAPA under Section 5 (1) of the Societies Act 1966.

Apart from reversing the home ministry’s decision, the court also ordered the federal government to pay RM8,000 in costs.

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