©The Sun (Used by permission)
by Husna Yusop
KUALA LUMPUR (Nov 29, 2011): The Peaceful Assembly Bill 2011 has been passed by the Dewan Rakyat after debate by six Members of Parliament (MPs) at committee stage, amidst strong protest from the opposition coalition and civil society groups.
Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Sri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz wound up the debate on the bill in 40 minutes without the presence of any opposition MPs who left the House in the middle of his speech.
In his speech, Mohamed Nazri said the act is not unconstitutional as claimed but was in line with Article 10 of the Federal Constitution which must be read together with Clauses (2), (3) and (4).
"The clauses allow Parliament to impose restrictions deemed necessary or expedient in the interest of the security of the nation or public order.
"So, we can enact the (necessary) laws. If we read the constitution carefully, what the government does today is not at all against the constitution. This is the first lie made by the opposition," he said.
Mohamed Nazri said the core of the new law is to breathe life into Article 10 by including the necessary elements, as the rights granted for the citizens to assemble peacefully is not absolute.
He also said six amendments have been made to the act which was tabled for first reading by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak on Thursday.
One of these concerned the controversial Section 9(1) which makes it mandatory for an organiser to give a 30–day notification to the police prior to holding an assembly in a non–designated venue.
“Today, we have decided to reduce it to 10 days because we listen to the people.
The BN MPs have raised this issue in our meetings.
So, this is not about demands by the opposition.
“The thing with the opposition (is that) when we don’t listen to the people, they said we are mean, but when we listen to the people, they said we are flip–flop,” he said.
The opposition MPs staged a walkout from the Dewan during Mohamed Nazri's wind–up speech.
"We do not see the point of the debate when they still want to pass the bill despite so much protests," Azmin Ali (PKR–Gombak) told theSun at the Parliament lobby after the walkout.
He said the opposition will continue its objection against the bill and will work closely with NGOs and human rights groups to ensure that the people's constitutional rights are protected.
More to follow