The Inspector-General of Police, Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar, should stop acting as if he is mere apologist for UMNO’s Red Shirts which will undermine police honour and morale as the overwhelming majority of policemen and policewomen are professional and non-partisan who want to be the guardians of the Constitution, law and order of the country and do not want to play any political games.
The judgment by the High Court judge Justice Nathan Balan yesterday that the police are legally-bound to ensure the Red Shirts movement holds its counter-rally at a different location to prevent clashes with Bersih 2.0 supporters tomorrow should remind Khalid of his sworn and supreme duties to serve the country and not any single individual and to uphold the Constitution, law and order in the country.
In his ruling rejecting an application for an injunction to prevent Bersih 5 and a counter-rally from taking place in the capital city, Justice Nanthan said Section 18 of the Peaceful Assembly Act stated that the police must redirect any counter-rallies if they knew that clashes were imminent.
He said: “Section 18 of the PAA acts as a safety valve to diffuse any potential conflict therefore it is the duty of the police to prevent a clash or conflict should there is a possibility that it would eventuate.”
It is most shocking that in the past few weeks, the highest authorities in the land, including the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister-cum-Home Minister, and the Inspector-General of Police seem to be totally ignorant of the existence of Section 18 of the Peaceful Assembly Act (PAA) 2012 which was enacted to deal with the situation created by Red Shirts want to have a counter-rally in response to Bersih 5 rally.
Let all Malaysians be aware of Section 18 of the PAA on “Counter Assembly” which reads:
“18. If the Officer in Charge of a Police District receives a notification of a counter assembly and it is evident that the organization of the counter assembly will cause conflict between the participants of the assemblies, the Officer in Charge of the Police District shall give an alternative for the counter assembly to be organized at another time, date or place.”
The Red Shirts are fully entitled to hold a peaceful and non-violent counter-demonstration in support of Najib’s undemocratic and kleptocratic rule, but they are not entitled to threaten “bloodshed” or provoke breaches of the peace and acts of violence.
Has IGP Khalid for instance ensured that the OCPD of the Dang Wangi Police District given the Red Shirts an “alternative” for the counter assembly at another time, date or place and if not, why not?
In his judgement yesterday, Justice Nanthan said the application, filed by three city Malay trader groups, failed, among others, to provide a credible explanation as to why the suit was only filed at the eleventh hour when Bersih 2.0 had already made it known that the Bersih 5 rally was to be held within the Dataran Merdeka vicinity since September this year.
He also agreed with the argument presented by Bersih 2.0’s lead counsel Gurdial Singh that no private citizen or groups should use the court to prevent any organisations from exercising their constitutional right to assemble.
The High Court judge cited Section 18 of the PAA to point out that only the authorities have the power to impose restrictions, as stated by the provision that requires the police to direct any organisation holding a counter-rally to relocate to prevent a confrontation.
In this connection, both the Prime Minister and the IGP owe Malaysians an explanation as to why they are equating Red Shirts with Bersih 5, as I fully agree with Bar Council representative, Syahredzan Johan who told a Proham forum yesterday titled “Build Up to Bersih 5: Enabling Environment or Disempowering for Citizens Action” of the danger of portraying the anti-Bersih Red Shirts’ actions as a response to the Bersih 5 rally.
“Because what that means is we are either legitimising violent protests or protests in order to stop other people from protesting, or we are slowly de-legitimising actual peaceful assemblies, expressions of political belief. So this is the danger.”
Syahredzan said that the nature of a democracy meant that competing interests should be heard and that even the Red Shirts should be allowed to have a rally if it is done peacefully.
“But I think through their conduct, what we have seen over the past one month, I think we can certainly suspect their intentions is not really to have a rally, but to disrupt.
“This is where what I said earlier, if you put them on the same pedestal or same platform, [as] equal on opposing sides, I think that’s not quite correct. Because one is trying to have a peaceful assembly, the other one is actively trying to disrupt and stop a peaceful assembly through threats and sometimes through violence.”
In their statements, both Najib and Khalid have sought to equate Red Shirts with Bersih 5 as if to legitimize any Red Shirts violence and mayhem.
Is this the intention of IGP and the Prime Minister?