Tuesday, 22 November 2011

PKR: 'No street protest' rule unfair, unconstitutional

The proposed rule to keep protestors off the streets stipulated in the Peaceful ASsembly Bill 2011 is both unconstitutional and unreasonable, said PKR, a party born from reformasi-era street protests.
In a statement today, PKR vice-president N Surendran said the restriction was unreasonable and negates Article 10 of the Federal Constitution on the rights to assembly peacefully.

"There is no such restriction in the laws of other democratic countries such as UK, US, Australia, Canada, Finland or South Africa.

"It is completely inconsistent with international norms and practices as well as the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights," said Surendran, who is also a leading human rights lawyer.
Surendran argued that street protests are normal and harmless form of expression. Moreover, he said it was an integral part of any functioning democracy.

He said that in modern democracies, the police  would be managing traffic and other matters to ensure that the street rallies go on peacefully.

IGP given wide powers

On the 30-day notice requirement, Surendran said this is unnecessary and intentionally included to make it as difficult as possible to convene any assembly.

"If the issue is current and of urgency, are we to wait for a month before holding an assembly? Must we wait a month if we want to gather to handover a memorandum to the government?

"In the UK under the Public Order Act 1986 only a six day notice is required. In Western Australia it is 4 days, in South Africa 7 days and in Finland it is only 6 hours," he said.

He adds that Section 8 of the bill which allows the Inspector-General of Police to take "such measures as he deems decessary" to be vague and open to abuse.

"It grants new untramelled powers to the police vis-a-vis public assemblies. Any conditions the police may be allowed to impose must be minimal, limited and clearly spelled out in the bill," he said.

Making process a burden
Surendran said these restrictions proposed in the bill had rendered Article 10 (1) (b) of the Federal Constitution meaningless and the bill itself unconstitutional.

"From the particulars it is clear that the real intention of (the prime minister) and his government is to make it as difficult and burdensome as possible for the rakyat to peacefully assemble.

"We are now indisputably worse off than we were under the provisions of the Police Act 1967," he said.

In his Malaysia Day speech, Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak promised to amend Section 27 of the Police Act 1967 as part of a series of reforms to create more democratic space.
Although some Emergency-era laws have been abolished, critics argued that no real reforms in the areas of fundamental liberties have been introduced.

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