Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Assembly Bill's clarification doesn't hold water

YOURSAY ‘Please tell me, if the police have discretion to decide and people have rights, which of these two principles takes precedence?'

your sayManjit Bhatia: PM Najib Razak said: "We have researched 12 different Acts worldwide and we tried to make an Act that is consistent with (our norms) and international norms."

1) Explain - exactly - what your norms are and let Malaysians and others decide if they equate with basic human and democratic rights or if they equate with other pariah states like Iran, Syria, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, China, Vietnam, North Korea and so on.

2) How does a pariah state like Malaysia with its autocratic norms reconcile these with ‘international norms'?

3) Which ‘international norms', precisely?

If you only "researched 12 different Acts worldwide", you couldn't have researched very well at all, given there are 196 countries in the world. Either you're terribly lazy, Najib, or you are lying through your teeth again.

SusahKes: PM, did you look at Burma's Act? Rumour has it that their enactment offers better democracy than you? You must have been comparing your notes with that of Zimbabwe's, I suppose.

Anyway, the thing street demonstrations will affect is the peace and livelihood of Umno.

Hang Babeuf: "[The] Police [have] discretion (previously) but in this new Act, the right of citizens to gather peacefully is guaranteed, so this is important," said Najib.

So please tell me, Najib, if the police have discretion to decide and people have rights, which of these two principles takes precedence? In a direct showdown, who wins?

Is the precedence of the right to assemble peacefully over the exercise of police discretion now guaranteed, absolutely?

If not, we are back where we were before under the old Act: in a world where police discretion - exercised arbitrarily and without need for justification or right of appeal - holds sway.

So this, dear PM, is an improvement? How stupid are we expected to be? Is this the level of argument and analysis in the cabinet?

Perhaps so. Perhaps this also explains why the government stumbles from mistake to mistake - and is always surprised.

What if I wanted to call a demonstration next week? And I said that I had given notice of my intention this afternoon to do so "within 30 days" before the event, would the government and police then, politely and obligingly say, "Sure, fine, that's okay, you've met the requirements - just so long as you give us notice at some time, any time, during the 30 days before the intended event"?

Not likely.

It's bad enough what the government intends to do regarding this Act. But what is even worse is that they give such ridiculous, patently absurd justifications and defences for their actions, and then expect people to accept them.

To be restricted an adult in one's responsible actions is one thing. To be infantilised gratuitously is another, and something far worse.

The problem, yet again, is that the government always expects people to make themselves "sufficiently stupid".

Quigonbond: I have three comments on the matter:

1) The language in section 9 of the Peaceful Assembly Bill is confusing. What does "within 30 days before an assembly" mean?

It seems you can't notify two months in advance, which is preposterous. It's the Attorney-General's Chambers' bad drafting, and Pakatan Rakyat is right to see that the intent is for 30 days' advance notice.

2) So 30 days' notice doesn't apply to a designated area? But ‘designated area' so far refers to hereto an unpublished gazette. The public cannot be blamed for being skeptical that this list will be anything great.

3) The notice period isn't the only problem. The bill unconstitutionally restricts the right of children to assemble.

It empowers the very same police (and the minister) with discretion to impose conditions (and amend schedules to the Act) and to use reasonable force - this being rich coming from the same folks who think marching for free and fair elections is a threat to national security, and beating and kicking protestors are use of reasonable force.

Najib is either doing a major spin or he's very badly advised.

Lexicon: There's no 'confusion'. It's perfectly clear. Umno overreacted to Bersih 2.0, and then tried to pull a publicity stunt by 'repealing' the Internal Security Act (ISA).

But Umno has to please the thugs and thieves in its leadership, so it rushes through new laws that suppress public demonstrations and send people to jail without any hope of trial.

This pretence at reform is to allow Umno to continue to steal from us. We get it.

PM clarifies 'confusion' over peaceful assembly act

Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak today shot down claims that the mooted Peaceful Assembly Act is draconian, clarifying that gatherings can in fact be held on a short notice, contrary to criticisms otherwise about the bill.

"The Peaceful Assembly Act is divided into two categories, for designated areas, they only need to inform the police and there will be people to supervise even if it’s on a short notice.

NONE"For non-designated areas, then it will require a 10-day period so the police can negotiate with the local community to get their views," he said at a press conference in Kuala Lumpur today.

"For designated areas, you can gather at any time... just inform the police you are having the gathering... in fact (you can) even inform within (just) 24 hours."

The premier added that this was a big change compared to the present law.

"Police has discretion (previously) but in this new act, the right of citizens to gather peacefully is guaranteed, so this is important," he said.

Najib also rubbished claims that the law was more draconian than Burma, accusing opponents of trying to confuse the public.

himpun rally crowd 1"We will define the areas where the people can gather. They will be designated. That is what we mean designated area, and they will be areas that will not impede public interest such as stadiums and open spaces.

"The police will just facilitate the peaceful gathering, that is the role of the police."

'Still no street demonstrations'

When asked whether similar rules would apply to street demonstrations, Najib was adamant that it was out of the question.

"Not for street demonstrations. We say no to street demonstrations. It's out. The point is, it will disrupt the peace and affect the livelihood of others."

NONEHe added that what was important was for citizens to have a platform to gather peacefully to voice their opinions.

"We have researched 12 different acts world wide and we tried to make an act that is consistent with (our norms) and international norms," he said.

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