Tuesday, 29 November 2011

More than 1,000 march against Assembly Bill

Members of the Bar Council and supporters are marching to Parliament House from the Lake Gardens in Kuala Lumpur, to protest the Peaceful Assembly Bill which is expected to be voted on tonight in the Dewan Rakyat.

NONEDescribing the draft law as legislation that would rob the rakyat off their constitutional right, Bar Council president Lim Chee Wee has vowed that lawyers cannot watch it enter the statute books without standing up to it.

The crowd exceeding 1,000 began the two-kilometre 'Walk for Freedom' at 12.19pm to submit a memorandum opposing the law.

NONEAction is expected in front of Parliament House as activists have called on the public to gather there for three consecutive days, with effect from 11am in an 'Occupy Parliament' move.

The group - the KL People's Assembly - has been behind the 'Occupy Dataran' movement.


10.05am: About 40 police personnel, including 10 light strike force officers, are standing by in front of the entrance to Parliament House.

10.38am: Reporters have gathered in front of Royal Lake Club in the Lake Gardens. Several lawyers are in sight.

There is no police presence here, although about 10 were seen earlier at the National Monument, across the street.

NONE10.45am: A member of the Bar Council secretariat tells reporters that the gathering has been shifted to the junction of the road leading to the Royal Lake Club approximately 300m away.

10.56am: Several police patrol cars pass by, but do not stop. The crowd has grown to about 80.

11am: Former Bar Council president Ambiga Sreenevasan arrives.

11.01am: Bar Council president Lim Chee Wee says he is "feeling good" and that he will address the crowd at 11.30am. The march will begin at 12.30pm.

NONE11.03am: More than 100 people are present - the lawyers are wearing suits and many of the supporters are in yellow.

11:05am: A traffic police officer arrives to regulate traffic.

11.10am: Ambiga tells reporters: "I hope the government will look into the Bill. There is no need to rush it."

PKR vice-president N Surendran and PKR information chief Latheefa Koya are spotted - they are lawyers.

11.14am: Lim Chee Wee tells foreign correspondents that the very inception of Malaysia was based on street demonstrations.

"This Bill takes away the very act that granted us independence."

NONE11.16am: The Bar Council is distributing its 18-page draft of the Peaceful Assembly Act to the media.

11.20am: PAS central committee member Hanipa Maidin, a lawyer, and Ampang MP Zuraida Kamaruddin are seen.

11.23am: The crowd has grown close to 200. Lawyer and Segambut MP Lim Lip Eng and Suaram head Kua Kia Soong are present, as are several anti-Lynas activists.

11:29am: Yellow banners are being held up, some of which read: 'Kill the Bill' and 'Bebas Himpun, Bebas Rakyat'.

11.31am: Lim Chee Wee introduces the first speaker to the crowd of about 300.

NONE11.35am: Bar Council constitutional committee head Syahrezan Johan (left) tells them: This walk today is not about politics, it about the unholy haste (in which) they (government) are pushing it through to limit our constitutional right.

Syahrezan says that that, if the Bill is passed, its provisions "will be abused".

He lists situations where people cannot gather, each of which draws boos from the crowd.

"Do you know that we cannot gather at the Bar Council HQ because it is 50m from a bridge?

"We have drafted a far superior alternative Bill and it only took three days. And we ask the government to consider this because it gives meaning to PM's Malaysia Day speech."

11.47am: Members of the Human Rights Commission are seen, observing the gathering.
NONEAt Parliament House, meanwhile, police have set up a roadblock at the entrance, in readiness for the demonstrators.

11.52am: At the Lake Gardens, the organisers direct the crowd to move further in, as they are spilling onto the road.

11.54am: Lawyer Edmund Bon is leading the crowd in chanting: "Bebas bebas, bebas himpun, bebas rakyat!"

11.56am: At Parliament House, the DAP's Sibu MP Wong Ho Leng shows up at the entrance to await the demonstrators.

"How can the Bill be passed? Insane!" he remarks to reporters, explaining that he is there to take some of the demonstrators inside.

He says each MP can take five people into the premises.

NONE11.59am: Bar Council Secretary Tony Woon Yeow Thong tells the crowd at the Lake Gardens that the government has gone back on its word. During consultations, it had told the Bar Council that it would live up to international standards of human rights.

12.07pm: Former Bar Council Yeo Yang Poh who led the team that drafted the alternative Peaceful Assembly Act addresses the crowd.

"We (drafted the alternative Bill) not because it needed tweaking but (because) its fundamentals are wrong. If this law had been passed by the British in the 1940s and 1950s, we would not have attained independence."

12.15pm: A group of youngsters clad in black are seen loitering on the fringes of the crowd. Asked for their purpose, they decline to comment beyond stating: "We are defenders of YBs."

12.19pm: The crowd begins moving out of the park - the march to Parliament House has started.

NONE12.26pm: A group who claims to be a coalition of Malay NGOs are already at the bridge leading to Parliament. They are chanting "We are against free sex!". One is overheard saying "Go back to India", which does not go down well with Indian Malaysians who hear it.

12.35pm: The Bar Council crowd follows orders to keep off the road and not obstruct traffic. Lim Chee Wee and nine other Bar Council leaders are allowed into the Parliament compound to hand over their protest note.

12.45pm: Both the Bar Council's group and Malay NGOs have reached the bridge that connects to the entrance of Parliament.

They are unable to proceed to Parliament's gates and are on opposite sides of the road.
The Bar Council crowd is chanting: "Bebas, bebas! Bebas himpun!"

The opposing crowd retorts with: "Kami tentang seks bebas!"

12.50pm: NGOs' representative Zulkifli Sharif tells the press that they are a coalition of Malay groups who here to hold a counter-rally and accused the Bar Council of having a political agenda.

"We saw the Bar Council group holding placards which was promoting free sex," he said.
NONEHe said the coalition represents several NGOs, including Majlis Ayahanda Malaysia and Persetuan Veteran Tentera Melayu.

This group later unfurled a banner mocking the Seksualiti Merdeka event, whichcame under fire from the authorities who claimed that it was promoting homosexuality.

The Seksualiti Merdeka event was meant to address the rights of the queer community and the Bar Council defended their right to do so.
Those holding the banner repeatedly asked the press not to photograph their faces.

12.50pm: The Bar Council delegation has reached the Parliament lobby and are addressing the press.

12.55pm: The Malay NGOs, now numbering at about 100, sets fire to a yellow t-shirt. Police quickly intervene.

NONE1.05pm: Lim Chee Wee hands over its draft Peaceful Assembly Bill and the Bar Council's protest note to Parliament opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim.

1.10pm: The Malay NGOs crowd have decided to take a break from chanting slogans and seek refuge under several trees.

The Bar Council crowd is still chanting pro-democracy slogans.

1.20pm: Lim Chee Wee rejoins the protestors and is greeted with a thunderous applause.

"Today we prove that we can assemble peacefully. We must all write to our MPs and consider the Bar Council's Bill. We must thank the police for facilitating this peaceful assebly.

"This will not end, we must continue knocking on the door of Parliament to ensure this law does not enter our statute books."

Speaking to the media a few minutes later, Lim adds: "Engage as many MPs, senators and ministers as well as oppositon. I hope our parliamentarians cannot (sic) in one legislation take away what is constitutionally ours."

NONE1.30pm: The crowd has started to disperse, though some - such as the group of Malay NGO leaders, linger a few minutes more.

1.45pm: It starts to drizzle. The few remaining protestors and activists disperse.

2pm: Dang Wangi OCPD Zulkarnain Abd Rahman (left) speaks to the media after both groups have dispersed.

"Everything was under control, no untoward incident happened. It's just that they blocked the road, but it was manageable."

When asked if traffic was badly affected, Zulkarnain replied: "Its not fair for me to say that it was badly affected, but traffic was slow."

"But it is a good thing that they complied with out instructions and everything went smoothly."

He estimated the anti-PAB crowd to be between 400-500, while the counter-protest was between 150-200.

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