The right to assemble

— The Malaysian Insider
Nov 22, 2011

NOV 22 — On September 15, Datuk Seri Najib Razak went further than just saying he will repeal the Internal Security Act (ISA). In effect, he said the government of the day will treat all Malaysians as adults by reviewing section 27 of the Police Act on the freedom of assembly.

This freedom is enshrined in Article 10 of the Federal Constitution and the prime minister said then that the government will allow public gatherings based on international norms while taking a firm stand against street demonstrations.

Today, he made good his promise. In the most surprising of ways. His administration tabled the Peaceful Assembly Bill 2011 that actually ends any right to a public procession for any other reason except for religious events and funerals.

The Bill also seeks to limit constitutional right of assembly but doing so under guise of a more liberal government that takes care of every stakeholder of any public assembly. Fact is, the police now have wider powers than merely denying a permit.

They can suggest alternative venues for such assemblies, they can hold a draw to decide between two or more simultaneous assemblies — all in the name of a liberal and more democratic government.

Of course, the new law will not infringe on assemblies for elections or labour disputes. It is specific for those who have some beef against someone else. And with steeper fines too.

And the nub of problem is this: the new legislation, whether it’s the Peaceful Assembly Act or replacement security law for the ISA, is showing that this government is all along more interested in window dressing than true reforms.

It is interested in making announcements that will raise people’s hopes only to be let down months later. If anything, this new law is chilling for greater democracy in Malaysia. If anything, this new law is just proof that Barisan Nasional (BN) will not do anything to jeopardise its hold on Putrajaya.

This from a government that has done a lot for the country over the years. It reflects a great insecurity on its part by proposing such laws that impinge on civil liberties. What a pity. One expects better from a government that promises 1 Malaysia. People First. Performance Now.

  1. #1 by monsterball on Wednesday, 23 November 2011 - 12:43 am

    There are countless twisting and turnings…..broken promises the day.. Najib took over.
    The Govt. really fear People’s Power in the streets.
    They have seen many Dictators fell…and come out with this bright actually protect themselves…after seeing the BERSIH 2 walkers …fearing nothing.
    With all these bright ideas…these bullies and cowards think they can keep on creating all sorts of issues with no fear.
    Police and laws they control.
    Now they want to control the People.
    Malaysians are so sick of all the nonsense…cannot wait to go to the 13th GE settle all things….once and for all.

  2. #2 by monsterball on Wednesday, 23 November 2011 - 12:50 am

    This idea makes “1Malaysia” and “People First. Performance Now” promises a load of garbage.
    Let him do as he likes.
    Everything is pointing towards how sick UMNO b party is.

  3. #3 by Jong on Wednesday, 23 November 2011 - 1:14 am

    A BIG dent on civil liberties!
    This tyranny and oppression is not going to work for them instead, it has angered Malaysians on both sides of the political divide including fence-sitters who vow will wipe out this corrupt umno-led BN government come GE-13!

  4. #4 by Jeffrey on Wednesday, 23 November 2011 - 2:56 am

    Is the Peaceful Assembly Bill 2011 (“Bill”) a greater restriction to con the public with an illusion of democratic reform or a genuine relaxation on Freedom of Assembly (“FOA”) though tentative and gradual in direction of reform? Ambiga says it is the former; that it restricts FOA more and therefore unconstitutional in contravention of Constitutional Guarantee of FOA. One has to ask by what standards and benchmark she says this. She says that the Bill provisions “fail to keep up with international standards” to which the question arises what are international standards as measured by countries like (say) US or UK that uphold FOA more than other countries. One of the first of such standards is what is known as the “Public Forum Doctrine”. Justice Roberts enunciated that in te American case of Hague vs CIO wrote: ”Wherever the title of streets and parks may rest, they have immemorially been held in trust for the use of the public and, time out of mind, have been used for purposes of assembly, communicating thoughts between citizens, and discussing public questions. Such use of the streets and public places has from ancient times, been a part of the privileges, immunities, rights, and liberties of citizens.”

  5. #5 by Jeffrey on Wednesday, 23 November 2011 - 3:14 am

    The Bill has this anomaly (contrary to Public Forum Doctrine) that FOA rallies on public streets are prohibited. Streets and side walks & parks are traditionally been immemorially associated with public forum. It was since Roman times. The Forum itself in Rome was situated on an uninhabited swamp, drained and turned into cobble stone paved streets where Romans communicated and exchanged ideas. But then again in ancient Roman times wheeled vehicles were few and they were prohibited from driving through the streets of Rome from sunrise until the Roman ‘tenth hour’ (4 o’clock in the afternoon). Nowadays there are thousands of motorists especially during peak hours going to and leaving offices. To allow FOA during these hours would be to uphold FOA to the extent of disproportionately prejudicing and inconveniencing motoring public rights. So the modern standards of how to balance the competing imperatives of FOA and motoring public rights is not to make streets a prohibited area for assembly altogether – which is what the Bill has done- but to regulate its the “time, place, and manner” of their use based on what is now known as the “compatible use” test.

  6. #6 by Jeffrey on Wednesday, 23 November 2011 - 3:25 am

    Compatible use means working with the police to allow (for eg) certain streets on Sunday or even on a working day, maybe in the evening/night or even during office hours if traffic could re-directed without causing massive jams in rest of city. There is always a tension between intent of protesters whose main object is maximising its communicative capability to deliver their protest message to a great number of public around as against the authorities need to protect/safeguard public esp the motoring public rights not to be bogged down by massive jams caused by demonstrations that cause their cars to overheat and the scheduled appointments to be missed. From that need to balance conflicting interest, whilst one cannot exclude entirely traditional usage of streets for assembly, one cannot at the other extreme, have unbridled and uncontrolled use of the streets in the name of FOA without control and regulation by the police.

  7. #7 by Jeffrey on Wednesday, 23 November 2011 - 3:36 am

    The Bar Council’s current constitutional law committee chief Syahredzan Johan rightly took a slightly different stance from that of Ambiga in saying that the Bill is still a “step forward” and up as compared to section 27 of the Police Act that the Bill seeks to replace. Principally this is because the Police Act sets no criteria and guidelines by which the Police at their discretion can just refuse the granting of a license to 3 or more persons assembling, thus rendered an illegal assembly. By international standard apart from traditional forums (ie streets parks and side walks) there are non forum and prohibited areas which the Bill specify are “petrol stations hospitals fire stations airports railways land public transport terminals ports canals docks bridges places of worship kindergartens and schools as well as dams and reservoirs”. Apparently they have forgotten to include prisons and post offices which are traditionally prohibited for security reasons.

  8. #8 by Jeffrey on Wednesday, 23 November 2011 - 3:47 am

    The conclusion is that one cannot preclude the need for police authorities to regulate but the guidelines should be clearly set out in the bill in a way such that police must apply the compatible use test and impose only reasonable, content-neutral (meaning objective and not politically bias) time, place and manner restrictions narrowly tailored to serve a compelling public interest. On the other part of criticism that the punishment for breaching the Peaceful Assembly Act is more draconian than the Police Act, this is natural where the Act is especially promulgated/enacted to serve the purpose of regulating public assembly which entails the need to impose quid pro quo more severe penalties if it provisions are breached by organizers.

  9. #9 by Jeffrey on Wednesday, 23 November 2011 - 3:56 am

    The advantage of this Bill is that you can lawfully assemble (say) and protest in Lake Gardens, any Stadium or some Club’s field or any where else other than those specified as prohibited areas without a need for police permit. The only problem is that a traditional forum like “streets” is included as prohibited area – which effectively restricts a march and its communicative and interactive effects with larger public along the streets tat the march proceeds.

  10. #10 by boh-liao on Wednesday, 23 November 2011 - 4:57 am

    Obviously rakyat KENA CONNED, same or worse POISON under a different label (beautified n sanitised 4 show what)

  11. #11 by monsterball on Wednesday, 23 November 2011 - 12:12 pm

    New Bills…amend …add and even delete established Laws and People Rights…who cares.
    What have Najib not tried or done in his 4 years as an appointed PM…acting as mouth piece for his party and not for People at all.
    He is unbelievably shameless…that only a weird one.. fits the description.
    Weird ones…have many moods….changing personalities like changing clothes.
    He is not a clown…yet people are laughing over his performances.
    He is not an actor…yet his speeches are so hypocritical…then only actors can do that.
    No wonder..he dares not announce 13th GE date…for even a weird one can understand…what is right or wrong and they are kept as secrets in his life forever.

  12. #12 by k1980 on Wednesday, 23 November 2011 - 1:04 pm

    KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 23 — French engineering group Alstom was fined RM133 million by Swiss authorities after its employees were found to have bribed civil servants in at least three cases including the award of contracts in Malaysia.

    These malaysian civil servants must be held accountable for their under-counter activities and pay for their crimes. Name them and put them on trial as soon as possible, before umno proposes a new law civil servants have the right to take bribes.

  13. #13 by monsterball on Wednesday, 23 November 2011 - 1:13 pm

    Now he is in India with his memorized famous words….concerning trades…”We are on track”
    In China…same words..all on track.
    His speech writer knows if they teaches him varieties of ways in saying things…..he will need to flip flop more…to correct his own mistakes.
    To control flip flopping…better talk like a six year old than pretending to be too smart.
    Or is it Rosmah…his real teacher running out of bright ideas?

  14. #14 by ENDANGERED HORNBILL on Wednesday, 23 November 2011 - 9:45 pm

    Let’s just call a spade a spade.

    Najib is so spineless, stupid and untrustworthy.

    I am not wasting my breath on a jughead.
    There is no other party for me except Pakatan for the next GE.

You must be logged in to post a comment.