Police to consider proposal for peaceful gatherings in stadiums

(Bernama) – Police will consider a proposal by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak to allow peaceful gatherings in stadiums, to avoid demonstrations on roads said deputy Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Ismail Omar.

Ismail said police welcomed the prime minister's proposal, but every application for such gatherings would be studied on a case-by-case basis before approval was given.

"I feel it is a very good suggestion to safeguard peace and harmony as well as avoid incidents like the illegal rally recently. We will have to consider such applications first," he told Bernama when contacted today.

On Sunday, Najib had said that the government was ready allocate a place that was felt suitable for peaceful gatherings, like a stadium, to avoid burdening the public.

Ismail said police would take action against the mastermind and organisers of the Gerakan Mansuhkan ISA (GMI) "illegal rally" in the city on Saturday, after compiling enough evidence to charge them.

"We have to investigate first and if there is enough evidence, we will not hesitate to charge those responsible," he said.

Meanwhile, Gerakan welcomed the prime minister's proposal to provide suitable venues, including stadiums, for people to gather and air their grievances peacefully and orderly.

Gerakan vice-president Datuk Mah Siew Keong said in a statement that it would be better for gatherings to be held within enclosures as it would be more peaceful and easier for the police to provide security.

He said that any gathering should be a "win-win" situation, allowing participants to air their grievances and opinions while allowing the government to better understand the issues at hand.

"People have the right to express their views while the government should also have the channel to listen to the people. General public, business and traffic flow would also not be unnecessarily inconvenienced and affected," he added.

Suhakam vice-chairman Tan Sri Panglima Simon Sipaun in his statement yesterday strongly maintained its stand that the people have a right to participate in a peaceful assembly.

He suggested that in the event where police find it necessary to control or disperse a crowd, proportionate and non-violent methods should be invoked.

Malaysian Bar Council president Ragunath Kesavan meanwhile, said the council denounces the government's over-zealous and abusive show of power in its apparent determination to crush the people's exercise of their rights to the twin freedoms of assembly and expression, during the anti-ISA rallies.

"We also urge the government to immediately heed the calls for reform and to respect the rule of law and fundamental rights, including the right of all concerned individuals to assemble peacefully to express their opinions," he said in a statement.