PETALING JAYA: National Human Rights Society (Hakam) has welcomed the government's proposal to allow street protest to be removed as a criminal offence under the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012 (PAA) but has called for several other provisions within the Act to also be repealed or amended.
Hakam secretary-general Lim Wei Jiet (pic) said the government's efforts to remove street protest as a criminal offence in the PAA was welcomed as street protests is an "inherent and inalienable part of the freedom to assembly under Article 10 of the Federal Constitution".
He added that street protest has been an effective tool for people to express their concerns.
However, Lim noted that there were still many other provision in the PAA which the government should consider to repeal or amend as it curtailed fundamental freedoms and impose unreasonable restrictions.
Among the provisions Hakam has urged to repeal or amend are the criminal offence for people under 21-years-old to organise an assembly, and the criminal offence for children to attend an assembly.
Lim said the criminal offence for people under 21 years old to organise an assembly was inconsistent with the government's recent attempts to lower the voting age to 18 and to empower youths to make important decisions.
He also said children too have a right to have their voices heard. He cited examples of when girl guides in Malaysia assembled near Parliament to protest against child marriage and when schoolchildren all over the world joined climate change protest.
Lim also said the government should consider repealing or amending Section 9(1) and (5) that makes it a criminal offence for an organiser's failure to give notification of an assembly 10 days beforehand although the government now seeks to shorten it to seven days.
He said this was because in the decision of Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad v Public Prosecutor, the Court of Appeal had held that a failure of notification was unconstitutional.
"There is no provision in the Act which stipulated that an assembly held without the giving of the requisite prior notice was per se unlawful – hence, it is wholly disproportionate to criminalise such mere administrative failure or omission," he said in a statement on Tuesday (July 2).
Meanwhile, Lim also said that the government had consulted Hakam for feedback on the weaknesses of the current PAA, but was never consulted in the drafting or preparation of the recent Peaceful Assembly (Amendment) Bill.
He said this following Home Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin's claims that studies to decriminalise street protest was consulted with many bodies including Hakam.
"Hakam urges the government to collaborate more closely with civil society in the drafting of legislation, so that more comprehensive changes to our laws can be achieved," he said.
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