Posts Tagged ‘Assembly bill


Malaysia: UN experts warn new bill restricts right to peaceful assembly

7 December 2011 – A group of independent United Nations human rights experts today warned that a new bill in Malaysia restricts the right to peaceful assembly with measures such as a ban on street protests and conditional access for media to public gatherings.

The Peaceful Assembly Bill, which has been approved by the Malaysian Parliament, also includes a prohibition on non-citizens and citizens under the age of 21 to assemble peacefully, according to a news release issued by the experts.

“Many of these restrictions are not justifiable under international law,” said the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Maina Kiai.

He voiced his deep regret that neither the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM), nor civil society, was meaningfully consulted in the drafting of the bill, which also contains a vague definition of assembly and broad restrictions and conditions on gatherings.

The bill gives “excessive” authority and power to law enforcement officials and to the minister in charge of home affairs on matters related to assemblies, as well as full discretion to the police to make any form of recording of assemblies, stated the news release.

Margaret Sekaggya, the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders, said she is particularly alarmed by the provision prohibiting citizens below 21 years of age to assemble. “Political and social participation through peaceful protests are not only an educational experience for children, youth and students but also an investment for society as a whole,” she stated.

The Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of expression, Frank La Rue, urged the Government to seriously reconsider the adoption of the bill, stating that the ability of all individuals to express themselves freely, including in the form of peaceful assemblies, is “a litmus test for the level of democracy in any country.”

Also adding his voice to the call for an urgent review of the bill is the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, François Crépeau, who noted that under international human rights law, everyone has the right to freedom of assembly and association, without distinction of any kind, including nationality.

The experts all report to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva in an independent and unpaid capacity.

In July the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) had voiced concern about the apparent use of excessive force against protesters by Malaysian police and possible retaliation against demonstrators who were arrested and released.

Malaysia: UN experts warn new bill restricts right to peaceful assembly
7 Dec 2011 – UN News Centre


Bar Council, Suhakam say A-G glossed over street protest ban

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 5 — Putrajaya’s speed in passing a new law that bans street demonstrations has stunned the Bar Council and the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) who revealed they were given a far different account of its contents at the draft stage.

The two statutory bodies disclosed too that Attorney-General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail had sought their views over the controversial Peaceful Assembly Bill but failed to provide them with written copies of the draft before its tabling in Parliament last November 22.

“The Bar Council was not given a copy of the Peaceful Assembly Bill during the consultation stage,” its president Lim Chee Wee told The Malaysian Insider when contacted over the weekend.

“It was read out to us, and even then there were differences between the two versions, during consultation and what was tabled in Parliament. Notably, during consultation we were told assemblies in motion were allowed,” he said.

Assemblies in motion, better known as street demonstrations, are barred under the new law to replace section 27 of the Police Act.

It is one of the most controversial aspects of the new law, which was hastened after Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s government was globally panned for its harsh treatment of thousands of demonstrators in the Bersih 2.0 street rally seeking to pressure the prime minister for cleaner and more honest elections.

Lawyer Syahredzan Johan, who also attended the consultation meeting, clarified that the A-G had “glossed over” some aspects in explaining the new law.

The A-G, who prohibited street protests but told the Bar Council he was referring to “riots”, created a more positive impression of the new law, said Syahredzan.

“A riot is not a peaceful assembly, so we could understand why it was prohibited,” said Syahredzan, who helms the Bar’s constitutional law committee.

He added his Bar Council colleagues did not push the government for a black-and-white because they were given the impression there would be further meetings held to “fine tune” the draft.

“We didn’t think it would be tabled so soon. The meeting was two to three weeks; definitely less than one month before the tabling,” he said.

The Bar Council, which represents some 12,000 practising lawyers in the private sector, was taken aback at the government’s haste in pushing the Bill through in the Dewan Rakyat on November 29, just a week after it was tabled.

Bar Council, Suhakam say A-G glossed over street protest ban
December 05, 2011 – MI


Assembly Bill – Why the rush?

Within a week, the Bill was read twice. Members of Parliament were expected to read the Bill thoroughly, consult experts as well as their constituents and then debate it intelligently within the span of a few days. That was nothing less than an ambush on the liberal camp.

The ungodly rush suggests something else as well: the federal election is coming sooner rather than later. It suggests the tentative election date has been set and all Bills need to be passed before that deadline. If that is indeed the case, then the election presents a perverse incentive for the government to act based on a misunderstanding of criticism against the previous illiberal laws.

It must be highlighted that the criticism is against the spirit of the previous laws, and not against the laws per se. With the Peaceful Assembly Bill retaining the old illiberal spirit, it is no different from the old laws. To cite another example relating back to the Malaysia Day speech, the replacement of the Internal Security Act will still grant the government the power to detain a person without trial. Yet, the main criticism against the ISA was exactly the detention without trial feature. So, what exactly will the substantive change be?

One gets the impression that the government thinks all that is wrong is the names and the initials of a certain set of laws. Change the names and the initials to something more cheery and they expect the criticism will go away. That is a gross misunderstanding.

Based on that, the government would think that rushing the Peaceful Assembly Bill and other related ones will win it votes. No, it will not.

A substantive-minded government would take a more measured pace by making the Bill and others to come go through a thorough deliberative process. That possibly means pushing the next election as far as possible into the future and holding it only after a much improved Bill is ready for passing.

The reverse — setting the election date first and then targeting to pass the Bills before that date — will result in farcical Bills.

A rushed farcical Bill benefits no one. The voters will see through the farce and BN will not win any extra votes from it. BN in fact would lose votes because new voters and those who assumed good faith would think the ruling coalition has taken them for fools. Meanwhile, Malaysians will not see any improvement in their civil liberties.

In the end, what was the point of rushing it?

Why the rush?
Hafiz Noor Shams
December 02, 2011 – MI


Assembly bill – Dangerous to give BN majority in Parliament

NOV 29 — In a democracy it comes down to numbers. Barisan Nasional has more numbers in Parliament and is able to push through legislation, even when it is self-serving and meant for regime preservation.

This afternoon the Peaceful Assembly Bill was passed in Parliament by BN members and the frogs (calling them independent would be a disservice to independents the world over). Pakatan Rakyat MPs walked out because they wanted the Bill to be withdrawn and redrawn.

But that was never going to happen. As it is the Najib government was forced to eat humble pie and amend the Bill after it was pointed out that the legislation was even more regressive than Myanmar’s new laws on protests.

There is no use wailing or crying foul. BN has the numbers and we gave them the numbers in 2008. So it is perfectly legitimate for them to rubber stamp any legislation they want, except any change in law which requires two-thirds of Parliament’s support.

It is not the end of the world. We can always take back the numbers we gave them in 2008 and make sure that the next government repeals the Peaceful Assembly Act.

But if there is one lesson which we should take from today, it is this: it will be a dangerous gambit for us to give BN enough seats for them to have two-thirds majority in Parliament. Very, very dangerous.

Because then they will be able to change the Federal Constitution, put restrictions on the freedom of religion, assembly, revocation of citizenship and the like.

Limit the parliamentary majority — Lucius Goon
November 29, 2011 – MI


Assembly Bill violates many international treaty obligations – Amnesty International

The Malaysian government has introduced a law which would further tighten the country’s excessive restrictions on peaceful protest ahead of next year’s expected general elections, Amnesty International said today.

If enacted, the Peaceful Assembly Bill would effectively prohibit street protests and fine demonstrators who fail to comply up to 20,000 Malaysian ringgit (US$6,000). The Malaysian Parliament is to consider the bill on Tuesday.

“This bill is a legislative attack on Malaysians’ right to peaceful protest,” said Sam Zarifi, Asia-Pacific director at Amnesty International. “The Malaysian parliament should firmly reject this legislation.”

Last July, the authorities launched a brutal crackdown on freedom of peaceful assembly when the Coalition for Clean Elections, known as Bersih, held a march for electoral reforms in Kuala Lumpur. Police beat peaceful protesters, fired tear gas canisters into the crowd, and arrested at least 1,667 demonstrators.

In the bill street protest is broadly defined as “open-air assembly which begins with a meeting at a specified place and consists of walking in a mass march or rally for the purpose of objecting to or advancing a particular cause or causes.”

This goes against the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which endorses the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association (article 20).

The bill restricts demonstrations to enclosed locations, such as stadiums, and requires protest organizers to obtain police permission in advance. Under public pressure, the Cabinet on Friday reduced from 30 days to 10 days the advance requirement for organizers of a public assembly to notify the police.

Nonetheless, police are given wide discretionary powers to impose restrictions on public assembly. Organizers of the July march known as Bersih 2.0 were denied permits for assembly, both in the street and at a stadium.

This bill would put Malaysia in violation of many of its international treaty obligations. For example, it restricts children below the age of 15 from participating in peaceful public assembly. Under the Convention of the Rights of the Child, to which Malaysia is a party, children have “the freedom to have their say, and the right to form associations and assemble peacefully” (article 15).

“If the Malaysian government is serious about holding free and fair elections, it needs to end this assault on the right to peaceful protest,” said Sam Zarifi.

Malaysia urged to reject bill clamping down on peaceful protest
28 November 2011 – Amnesty International


The Walk for Freedom (Video)

(by KOMAS)


Pakatan MPs walkout to protest Assembly Bill

Pakatan Rakyat Members of Parliament staged a walkout after Prime Minister Najib Razak refused to heed their protests and those of civil society groups including the Bar Council, ramming through a controversial new law that will severely restrict Malaysians’ freedom to peaceful assembly and subjugating their rights to the police.

“This Bill does not protect national security, only the security of BN leaders,” PAS president Hadi Awang had told Parliament during debate of the Peaceful Assembly Bill.

“What excuse does the BN government have to bar peaceful assembly until Malaysia becomes worse off than Zimbabwe and Myanmar, whose ‘democracies’ are now better than ours. Only leaders who are cruel and afraid of the people will do such a thing,” Opposition Leader Anwar had also said the debate.

“Najib’s ‘clarification’ is proof that Peaceful Assembly Bill is the worst and most slipshod bill in 54-year parliamentary history raising questions about the Prime Minister’s bona fides in political reforms,” said Kit Siang.

The Pakatan will not vote on the Bill.

Only mini low-impact concessions

The walkout signifies the Pakatan’s objection to the Bill, while a slew of NGOs and activists including the Bar Council have also urged lawmakers to vote against it. However, while Najib has made several small concessions, he has refused to budge on the key issues.

Anwar, Hadi, Kit Siang lead Pakatan walkout to protest Assembly Bill
29 November 2011 – Malaysia Chronicle

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All that is necessary
for the triumph of evil
is for good men
to do nothing.

- Edmund Burke
When the people
fears their government,
there is TYRANNY;
when the government
fears the people,
there is LIBERTY.

- Thomas Jefferson
Do you hear the people sing?