PETALING JAYA: Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein who said wearing yellow Bersih 2.0 T-shirts is illegal came under fire from lawyers and academics today who said he was “talking nonsense”.

Hishammuddin told the press this morning that the arrests of those wearing such T-shirts are justified as it is related to an illegal activity.

However, the experts said that he is wrong on both counts as neither the rally nor the T-shirt is illegal.

Professor Aziz Bari of Universiti Islam Antarabangsa asked which law Hishammuddin was referring to in declaring that T-shirts is illegal as there was none to his knowledge that supported the minister’s contention.

“It is too far-fetched and illogical,” he told FMT. “Since when is it an offence to wear a certain colour in public? The only provision that comes remotely close is acting indecently in public and I doubt that wearing a T-shirt is an offence. Hishammuddin is talking nonsense.”

Aziz added that Hishammuddin also needed to clarify under which law was the Bersih 2.0 rally planned for July 9 deemed an illegal gathering.

He pointed out that criminalising an activity is a parliamentary decision and not that of an individual minister or the police.

“There is no such thing as absolute power of the police,” he said. “In fact, it is illegal for the police to deny permits before the organisers submit an application. That would mean the police have pre-judged the rally, which is unfair.”

Barbaric manner

Fadiah Nadwa Fikri of Lawyers for Liberty rejected Hishammuddin’s statement outright, branding it an “abuse and misuse of power”.

“There is no such law prohibiting these T-shirts,” she said. “Furthermore, these T-shirts are not linked to an illegal activity because the Federal Constitution allows the right to peaceful assembly and the constitution is higher than any other law in this country.”

“Despite being elected into the United Nations Human Rights Council last year, Malaysia is still behaving in a barbaric manner.”

LoyarBuruk co-founder, Edmund Bon, meanwhile, pointed out that the law prohibited civilians only from wearing police and military uniform, while Article 10 of the Federal Constitution allows people the freedom to dress as they please.

“A rally is only considered illegal if it seeks to incite violence,” he added. “The intention of the Bersih rally is the complete opposite. Hishammuddin’s statement smacks of arrogance and is unacceptable.”

Stephanie Sta Maria | June 29, 2011, Free Malaysia