KUALA LUMPUR: Street demonstrations and protest marches will no longer be barred under proposed amendments to the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012 (PAA).
Under the changes sought, a street protest is to be included as part of a peaceful assembly.
The move towards this has begun, with the Peaceful Assembly (Amendment) Bill tabled for first reading in Parliament yesterday.
The Bill, tabled by Deputy Home Minister Datuk Mohd Azis Jamman (pic), is expected to be debated and passed within the current Parliament meeting which adjourns on July 18.
The Bill states that the proposed amendments come in the wake of a shift in government policy that the right to assemble peacefully and without arms should also include street protests, as long as public order and security are not compromised.
The amendments, to Sections 3, 4 and 21, saw the term “street protest” omitted from several provisions.
A street protest is defined under Section 3 as “an assembly involving marching to protest against or advance a cause”.
The existing Section 4(1)(c) only allows stationary peaceful assemblies and rallies which do not extend to a “street protest”.
The amendments also seek to remove the RM10,000 fine under Section 4(3)(c) on street protesters.
The proposed changes include an all-new Section 21A, which empowers the police, with written permission from the DPP, to fine organisers or participants with a maximum RM5,000 for any offence under Section 9 or Section 15 of the Act.
This new provision allows the police to offer a written compound for any breach of these provisions.
Also to be amended is the notification period to be given to the police to hold assemblies, object to it and appeals.
Under the proposed amendments, organisers of peaceful assemblies or street protests need only notify the OCPD concerned seven days before the event, as opposed to the current 10-day notification period under Section 9(1).
Also, the OCPD is allowed to notify those objecting to a peaceful assembly or protest up to 24 hours prior to the event, compared to 48 hours now.
Organisers will also have 24 hours to appeal to the Home Minister against any restriction imposed by the OCPD.
Home Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin assured that there were sufficient provisions to handle street demonstrations “if things go out of control”.
“What happens if it turns out to be rowdy?
“Then other laws will have to come in.
“For example, there is the Criminal Procedure Code and other provisions of the law to ensure there will always be peace.
“We are giving the freedom which I think Malaysians should laud, as it makes things easier,” he told reporters at the Parliament lobby.
The PAA was first passed in the Dewan Rakyat by the Barisan Nasional administration in November 2011 and came into force in April the following year.
The PAA 2012 was enacted to replace Section 27 of the Police Act 1967 and removed the need to apply for police permits for mass assemblies.
Hailed as a step forward towards a more democratic society by the then administration, certain provisions were criticised by the Opposition and civil society groups.
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