GEORGE TOWN: Those who want to speak their mind at the newly-launched Speaker’s Square at the Esplanade here will have to speak up, literally. The state government has banned the use of megaphones, loudspeakers and other sound amplifiers.
Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng, who launched the square yesterday, said that the state decided to ban these items “to reduce possible action from the police.”
“In the past, when we applied for police permits, we were told not to use such items.
“There can be four to five people speaking at each corner on the square at any one time,” he said, adding that the state government would not back anyone up in the event of any legal action taken against him or her,” he said.
When contacted, Penang police chief Deputy Comm Datuk Wira Ayub Yaakob said the participants must be aware that they would be speaking at their own risk.
“We’ll be around, but as long as no one violates the law, everything will be fine.
“I expect everyone to check the law before speaking because if anything happens, don’t blame the state government or the police,” he said.
Former Malaysia Bar president Sulaiman Abdullah said some individuals might be excited and misuse it at the initial stage “but the danger is far less than the benefit” of the Speaker’s Square.
Sahabat Alam Malaysia vice-chairman Datuk Anwar Fazal said the square also provided an opportunity for people to learn how to speak in public.
Located at the Millennium Square concrete stage near the seafront, it will be opened to the public every Wednesday and Sunday from 6pm to 10pm from May 9.
Penang opposition leader Datuk Azhar Ibrahim however described the Speaker’s Square as another “cheap publicity” stunt after the RM100 reward for senior citizens.
“If he is really promoting freedom of speech, why is he still boycotting New Straits Times and Utusan Malaysia? Why is he still banning the officers from reading these newspapers?” he asked.