Home News Press Statements Press release: Peaceful Assembly Bill is more restrictive than present law and must be improved
|Press release: Peaceful Assembly Bill is more restrictive than present law and must be improved|
|Tuesday, 22 November 2011 06:15pm|
While the Malaysian Bar welcomes The Peaceful Assembly Bill (“Bill”), which recognises the freedom of assembly as guaranteed by Article 10(1)(b) of the Federal Constitution1 , the Bar is surprised that a “street protest”2 is prohibited, as it is a form of assembly in motion, or procession, that is already legally recognised in section 27 of the Police Act 1967. Such an assembly in motion is also permitted in most, if not all, of the jurisdictions that we would consider as having a model piece of legislation.3 Furthermore, there have been several peaceful “street protests” in Malaysia.4
This prohibition as well as certain other provisions were not disclosed to us as being part of the contents of the Bill, during the consultation process between the Malaysian Bar and the Attorney General’s Chambers.
In its present form, the Bill is more restrictive than present law, and must be improved. The Malaysian Bar proposes that the provisions of the Bill be amended, including:
This Bill, like section 27 of the Police Act, vests wide powers in the police, who are empowered to impose restrictions and conditions, and to disperse assemblies and arrest participants. The police’s past consistent and atrocious conduct in suppressing assemblies shows that it is crucial that the police change their mindset and abandon the culture of impunity in managing freedom of assembly. In other jurisdictions, the power to impose restrictions and conditions vests in the local authority or a procession commission.
Finally, the Minister of Home Affairs is empowered by the Bill to make regulations for the better carrying out of the provisions of the Act. It is important that these regulations facilitate freedom of assembly, instead of further restricting it.
Only when the improvements outlined above are implemented, would we begin to have a legislation in the public interest, which truly upholds, protects and promotes freedom of assembly.
Lim Chee Wee
22 November 2011
1 Article 10(1)(b) provides that all citizens have the right to assemble peaceably and without arms, subject only to such restrictions as Parliament may impose by law as it deems necessary or expedient in the interest of security of the country or public order.
2 Defined in section 3 of the Bill as “an open air assembly which begins with a meeting at a specified place and consists of walking in a mass march or rally for the purpose of objecting to or advancing a particular cause or causes”.
3 Examples include the United Kingdom, Finland and Queensland.
4 For instance, the Bar’s Walk for Justice in 2007, to demand a Royal Commission of Inquiry and the BERSIH 2.0 rally in July 2011. Most recently, a number of peaceful protests against the amendments to the Employment Act 1955 were held nationwide on 3 Nov 2011. It was reported in the media that “[s]everal police officers were seen directing traffic and assisting protesters” at one such protest, in Petaling Jaya, Selangor.
|< Prev||Next >|