MCLM Press Statement on the “Peaceful Assembly Bill 2011”

By Haris Ibrahim, MCLM

At a time when more Malaysians are pressing for democratic rights, the new Peaceful Assembly Bill 2011 tabled in the Dewan Rakyat yesterday proves beyond doubt that Najib is a congenital liar. 

Most convincingly, this new Bill bulldozes to the ground whatever empty promises Najib made on Sept 15 when he announced that he wanted to give Malaysians more freedom via a progressive package of social and political reforms including a review of Section 27 of the Police Act and the abolition of the Internal Security Act (ISA) and the Restricted Residence Act. 

MCLM opposes this proposed law which we deem as a repressive tool to restrict civil freedom because it accords the police even more power to arrest individuals. 

While the new Bill does away with the need for a permit to gather in public, alongside is a raft of new restrictions including barring protesters from taking to the street – a form of assembly in motion, or procession which is already legally recognised in section 27 of the Police Act 1967.   

The Bill is a public comedy of contradictions. On one hand, the Bill requires people to provide 30 days’ advance notice for assemblies, except for those in designated areas as defined by the home minister but on the other hand, it prohibits “street protest”  – a move inconsistent with section 10(e) (viii) of the Bill itself. 

Just last year, the government withdrew its reservations to Articles 1, 13 and 15 of the CRC on 6 June 2010, thus allowing children “the freedom to have their say, and the right to form associations and assemble peacefully”. With this new Bill, children under 15 are not allowed to take part in assemblies, except in cultural or religious events such as funeral corteges or events approved by the home minister. Those under 21 years of age are not allowed to organise assemblies. 

Why bother with tabling another Bill to amend the Police Act, which will take away the need to obtain a police permit prior to organising an assembly and then impose MORE restrictions with this new Bill?  

The new Bill goes against the genuine spirit of human rights as specified in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Federal Constitution and the promise of the Prime Minister to institute democratic reform. 

MCLM is appalled that in a tweet, Najib said: “We (are) transforming our laws to protect constitutional rights of our citizens to assemble while protecting public order (and) security of Malaysia.” 

Instead of protecting our constitutional rights, he is robbing us of those very rights under a hypocritical mask called transformation of laws! 

MCLM views with grave concern that all the pre-conditions, prior approvals not forgetting the restrictive legal provisions and greater empowerment of the police will severely discourage and dissuade the freedom of peaceful assembly, which is a basic human right. 

MCLM calls upon every right-minded MP to oppose this bill when it is debated in Parliament tomorrow for the second reading and for civil society to rise and reclaim their rights by publicly opposing this unconstitutional Bill which must NOT be passed at all. 

If this Bill is passed, it will prove beyond doubt that the current BN government will NEVER keep whatever shallow and empty promises made in a feeble whitewashing tactic to gain brownie points. 

Haris Ibrahim