KUALA LUMPUR: Street demonstrations and protest marches will no longer be a crime if amendments to the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012 (PAA) are passed.
The Peaceful Assembly (Amendment) Bill was tabled for its first reading by Deputy Home Minister Datuk Mohd Azis Jamman in Parliament on Monday (July 1), allowing street protests to be included as part of a peaceful assembly.
The Bill is expected to be debated and passed during the current Parliament meeting that adjourns July 18.
The Bill says that the proposed amendment comes in the wake of a shift in government policy that views that the right to assemble peacefully and without arms should also include street protests as long as they do not pose a threat or affect public order and security.
The amendments are to Sections 3, 4 and 21 of the PAA.
A street protest is defined by the PAA as an 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 is different from the right to assemble peacefully, that is already included in the PAA that does not necessarily include marching.
Under the proposed amendments, organisers of peaceful assemblies or street protests need only notify the police officer in charge of a district (OCPD) seven days before the event as opposed to the current 10-day notification period under Section 9(1).
The OCPD must also notify interested persons who object to a peaceful assembly or protest 24 hours prior to the event as opposed to the current 48-hour notification.
Organisers will also have 24 hours to appeal to the Home Minister against restrictions imposed by the OCPD on their proposed protest event.
The PAA was passed Dewan Rakyat under the former administration in November 2011 and came into force in April the following year.
There were protests from then Opposition lawmakers and civil society when the law was passed, saying it had too many restrictions.