C4: “Attempt on Siti Kasim’s life indicates hostile environment faced by local activists”

THE Centre to Combat Corruption & Cronyism (C4 Centre) has condemned the recent attempt on lawyer-activist Siti Kasim’s life, calling it a cause of alarm as it indicates the hostile environment faced by local activists and human rights defenders.

The anti-graft watchdog said such acts are “completely unacceptable” and called upon the police to prioritise investigations into the matter and uncover the identity of the perpetrator, especially now that Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Razarudin Husain has confirmed it to be attempted murder.

C4 was responding to reports of now-confirmed explosives under Siti Kasim’s car as it was being serviced at a workshop in Bangsar.

“Siti Kasim has long campaigned on behalf of indigenous people, both as an activist and as a lawyer defending them in court, and this incident took place days before she was due to drive to Kelantan to appear in court,” it said in a statement today (July 25).

“Siti is also well-known for her outspokenness against religious extremism in the country and as a result, she has faced much criticism and hostility from people who oppose her work and beliefs.”

According to C4, Siti’s case is not the first of its kind as activists in Malaysia have previously faced similar threats.

“Amnesty International Malaysia’s 2018 report, ‘The Forest Is Our Heartbeat’: The Struggle to Defend Indigenous Land in Malaysia details how ‘gangsters’ armed with swords or other weapons have been found to confront, harass and physically attack community leaders and activists with impunity,” it noted.

“[Similarly] it also mentioned how indigenous activists Bill Kayong was gunned down in broad daylight in Miri in June 2016.

“Enforced disappearances against social activists have also taken place multiple times, such as the cases of Pastor Raymond Koh and Amri Che Mat who remain missing up to this day without any explanation.”

C4 further noted that while there are no recent cases of this nature, the re-emergence of such an occurrence is a concerning regression.

“In light of the seriousness of the situation, we call upon the authorities to afford Siti the protections she needs under the law,” it stressed.

“The government has a duty to defend the constitutional right to freedom of expression. Those who exercise this right must be protected against intimidation and threats to their life and limb.”

As such, C4 said investigations into the matter must take place as urgently and efficiently as possible, prioritising the apprehension of the individual or group responsible before they can act again.

“These matters must be taken seriously by the authorities so as to prevent the normalisation and escalation of violence against those who speak out against injustice as they see it,” it said.

On July 21, Siti said she was alerted to two suspicious objects underneath her car after she sent it to a workshop in KL.

She posted a video on Facebook of what looked like plastic water bottles that were attached to the suspension on one of her car tyres, saying: “It looks like a bomb”. A bomb squad was dispatched after Siti called the cops.

Brickfields police chief Amihizam Abdul Shukor later said the objects were believed to be an improvised explosive device (IED), adding that the area in Jalan Maarof, Bangsar, was immediately cordoned off after Siti had alerted police. – July 25, 2023


Main pic credit: Facebook/Siti Kasim

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