Assembly organisers should provide BG

The Federal Government introduced a new bill, for the public to hold assemblies. This is inline with Prime Minister Dato’ Seri Mohd. Najib Tun Razak’s surprise announcement for ‘reforms on restrictive laws’, at the eve of 48th celebrations of the formation of the Federation of Malaysia carried live over RTM 1.

Published: Tuesday November 22, 2011 MYT 11:46:00 AM
Updated: Tuesday November 22, 2011 MYT 3:09:04 PM

Peaceful Assembly Act tabled in Parliament

KUALA LUMPUR: The Peaceful Assembly Act 2011 that addresses the right to assemble peacefully was tabled in Parliament Tuesday for first reading.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz tabled the bill in the Dewan Rakyat.

The proposed Act seeks to provide restrictions deemed necessary to such right but at the same time takes consideration of the interest of the country’s security and public order.

It is part of the efforts initiated by the Government to transform existing laws in relation to the constitutional rights of citizens to assemble.

The proposed bill, however, does not apply to an assembly such as strike, lockout or picket under the Industrial Relations Act and the Trade Unions Act.

The law also stated that it was an offence for such assembly to be held at any prohibited places and within 50 metres from the limit of prohibited place, for non-citizens and children below the age of 15 to participate and a person below the age of 21 years old to organised such assemblies.

A person who commits the offence may be liable to a fine not exceeding RM10,000.


The move is seen as giving Malaysians more choice to voice themselves, especially in the age where communication is seamless and social and new media rules the process of how people, especially the young, educated and internet savvy lot, view situation and form their opinion. The Minister in-charge of Parliamentary Affairs Dato’ Seri Mohd. Nazri Tan Sri Aziz clearly state that the consideration of the interest of the country’s security and public order is paramount even though the spirit of the new bill is to provide more avenues for ‘freedom of expression’.

In the past, the ‘right to assemble’ have been abused by certain quarters in their attempt to paint a bleak picture on the process of democracy and repressive human rights system in the country, especially to the eyes of the international community. Some quarters have been made to be manipulated for the narrow agenda of selected people who find it difficult to convince the majority in their brand of politics. They even resort of ‘politics of hatred’ and holding assemblies with the intention to make it go bad when they seek the moment the authorities invoke the provisions within the limit of the law.

Thus, authorities especially the Police have been very cautious and restrictive to approve the ‘permit to hold public assemblies’ for the fear of these bad intentions are translated into something ugly and people are hurt and properties are damaged when these ‘assemblies’ turn into ‘riot’. The classic example had always been the ‘May 13 Incidence’ where DAP and Gerakan held assemblies and demonstration with the specific intention to insult the Malays in Klang Valley.

Since then, ‘public assemblies’ which the Police felt could turn ugly are disallowed. Even organised by ruling party. Example is the UMNO planned 500,000 Malay assembly in Kuala Lumpur in 1987. That became one of the precursor to the massive arrest of ‘potential trouble makers’ by the Police in Oct 1987, which is known as ‘Operasi Lallang’. Even UMNO leaders such as Ibrahim Ali was held under ISA.

This is how the foreign media’s skewed views on the matter:

Malaysia to ban street protests under new law

SEAN YOONG, Associated Press
Updated 02:19 a.m., Tuesday, November 22, 2011

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Malaysia’s government announced Tuesday it will enact new rules for public demonstrations, including a ban on street protests and other restrictions that opposition groups say are too repressive.

Despite being under pressure to improve civil liberties ahead of national elections expected next year, the ruling party introduced a legislation known as the Peaceful Assembly Bill that proposes a range of curbs on the public.

The legislation, which Parliament is likely to approve as early as next month, effectively rejects many of the reforms demanded by opposition and human rights groups, which accused Prime Minister Najib Razak of reneging on his promise to make Malaysia a more liberal and freer society.

The bill “is a total reversal of Najib’s promise of providing more freedoms to the people,” said Lau Weng San of the Democratic Action Party.

The planned law proposed by Najib’s National Front makes one concession — it removes a requirement for demonstrators to get a police permit, which in many cases is denied to opposition parties.

Demonstrators will nevertheless be required to give a 30-day notice to the police, who can impose various restrictions or even reject the proposed time and place for the demonstration.

They also cannot take to the streets, effectively forcing them to be confined to stadiums or public halls. They also cannot make statements that can “promote feelings of ill will,” according to the text of the bill.

Children under 15 would be barred from rallies, which cannot be staged near schools, hospitals or places of worship. Protesters could be fined up to 20,000 ringgit ($6,200) if they break the rules.

The prime minister’s office said in a statement that the legislation “makes it easier for Malaysians to express their views without putting public order at risk” and represented the latest stage of Najib’s “progressive package of social and political reforms.”

Malaysian authorities faced strong criticism in July for cracking down on at least 20,000 protesters who marched in Kuala Lumpur to seek more electoral transparency. Police briefly arrested about 1,600 people and used tear gas and chemical-laced water in efforts to disperse the crowd.

The National Front has insisted that protests threaten public order. Opposition politicians say such warnings form an excuse for the government to stifle dissent and maintain its 54-year grip on power.

The National Front is expected to easily pass the bill because it has slightly less than a two-thirds majority in Parliament’s lower house.

In recent months, Najib has pledged to overhaul decades-old laws widely considered repressive, including ones that allow detention without trial. The opposition insists any reforms so far have been a superficial ploy to bolster the National Front’s support ahead of general elections expected by mid-2012.

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Now that the Government is ready to give these bona fide assemblers their right to convene in public, they have to be responsible for it. We propose that the organisers of such public assemblies pay deposit to the Police or local authorities. The deposit should be made in the form of bank guarantee (BG).

The purpose of the BG deposit is if the assembly turn ugly such as mess made (too much litter) or even worse, when the assemblers turn protestors with mob mentality and start to destroy public and private properties, then there is a recourse for the aggrieved party. All those who are physically affected by ‘people exercising their freedom of speech right’ could present their claims from the BG deposit.

After all, it is only fair. Claims on insurance due to mobstreet protest or rioting is never entertained.

This will ensure that organisers of public assemblies be very considerate to the interest of the majority and take extra care to make their planned event a success and weed of all ‘undesired characters’ as a proactive measure. ‘Freedom of expression’ should commensurate with their readiness to bear responsibility of the manner they exercise the right.

Organisers of assembly must really plan for their event and execute it with a proper ‘project management’ approach. This will ensure the event is held smoothly without any untoward incidence. If all goes well and no claims are made due to damaged caused by the assembly, the BG would not be cashed out and returned to the organisers.

We hope the Federal Government take this ‘BG deposit’ suggestion into serious consideration.

Published in: on November 22, 2011 at 18:00  Comments (2)