In January, Fridae reported that five applicants – festival co-founder Pang Khee Teik, Angela Marianne Kuga Thas, S Thilaga Socky Pillai, Siti Zabedah Kasim and Michelle Nor Ismat (whose name appears as Md Nor Ismat Selamat in court documents) had filed a judicial review application at the Kuala Lumpur High Court after the police forcibly cancelled the Seksualiti Merdeka festival which was to be held last November. It was the first time the event has been cancelled since it began in 2008. Last November, the police declared a blanket ban on all events related to the 10-day Seksualiti Merdeka festival claiming the movement was a “threat to public order.”
The organising committee said in a statement in January 2012 that they were seeking that the ban be lifted and declared null and void, and that the police make available to them copies of all reports made against the event.
On Thursday, Justice Rohana Yusuf said Section 21 of the Police Act empowers the police to impose a ban pending an investigation and the leave application was academic in nature as it was filed after the ban was placed, according to the Free Malaysia Today website.
The report quoted the legal counsel for Seksualiti Merdeka organisers, Honey Tan, who decried the judge’s decision, saying it was curtailing a citizen’s constitutional right.
In a written statement, Seksualiti Merdeka organiser, Pang Khee Teik, disagreed with the judge’s view saying: “When the police’s arbitrary powers cannot be reviewed in court, we are allowing the police to get away with abuse of power."
“The reason we are pursuing this case is so that the executive, legislative and judiciary branches of Malaysia do the right thing by the people. We want to remind them that they too have family members and friends who can be helped by the work that Seksualiti Merdeka does, that their lives can be bettered by the rights we are fighting for and that our future can be brighter when we have created a safe space for everyone to be who they are. We urge them to engage with us to do this work. Give us a chance to be heard, that’s all we ask.”
The Seksualiti Merdeka Organising Committee said in a press statement that they plan to appeal the decision and reminded the court that under Article 10 of the Malaysian Federal Constitution, Malaysian citizens are guaranteed the right to freedom of speech and expression and the right to assemble peacefully and form associations.