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Wednesday November 23, 2011

It’s a progressive start for reforms, say BN reps

KUALA LUMPUR: The tabling of the Peaceful Assembly Bill 2011 has been lauded by Barisan Nasional MPs as a progressive start for reforms as it shows that the Government is breaking away from the mindset that public assemblies are forbidden.

Temerloh MP Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah said the move was very different from the old mindset when public assemblies were treated like an allergy.

“It was as though the Government was allergic to the word ‘assembly’.

“But now, it has taken a very big step forward, whereby assemblies can be held but are subject to conditions,” he told reporters at the Parliament lobby.

Hulu Selangor Barisan MP P. Kamalanathan said the Bill would pave the way for the people to exercise their rights to assemble peacefully and, at the same time, protect the rights of others to carry out their daily businesses without threat.

The Bill, which addresses the right to assemble peacefully, was tabled for the first reading in the Dewan Rakyat yesterday.

However, DAP secretary-general and Bagan MP Lim Guan Eng said the Bill had more restrictions and carried higher fines than the current law.

He said DAP MPs would oppose the Bill once it was tabled for debate later.

The Bar Council, while welcoming the tabling of the Bill, said it was unhappy that street protests had been prohibited.

“The Bar is surprised that a street protest is prohibited as it is a form of assembly in motion, or procession, that is legally recognised under section 27 of the Police Act 1967.

“Such an assembly in motion is also permitted in most, if not all, of the countries that we consider as having a model legislation.

“Furthermore, there have been several peaceful street protests in Malaysia,” it said.

It added that the Bill in its present form was more restrictive than the present law, and must be amended to, among others, allow street protests, spontaneous assemblies and to do away with conditions that the police could impose on the organisers.

The Bar also wanted the Bill to be improved by removing the prohibition against children participating in public assemblies as it felt that it was contrary to the Convention of the Rights of the Child which Malaysia acceded to in 1995, that allows children to have their say, to form associations and assemble peacefully.

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