KUALA LUMPUR: The Peaceful Assembly (Amendment) Bill 2019 was passed in the Dewan Rakyat with last-minute amendments by the Home Ministry.
The new amendments further shortens the notice period organisers are required to give to the police.
Under the initial proposed amendments, organisers of peaceful assemblies or street protests need only notify the police seven days before the event, as opposed to the current 10-day notification period under Section 9(1).
However, Home Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said he took note of the concerns raised by lawmakers during debates on the notice period.
"For me, it is important to have a reasonable time period for the police and others to take note of such gatherings, they need time to say deploy manpower.
"But after taking into account, we will propose to reduce the notice period to five days," he said in his winding up of the points raised during the debates on the Bill on Thursday (July 4).
Muhyiddin also introduced a new Clause to the Bill, which requires the police to revert to the organisers within three days, from the five days that is currently required.
On the concerns raised by MPs on the possibility of disqualification for offences under the proposed amendment, Muhyiddin said lawmakers need not worry as they would only face a compound.
"I took notice of this too, as I am a lawmaker. However, if you are compounded, then just pay the compound and don't challenge it in court," he said.
The proposed change introduces a 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.
On the participation of children in street protests, Muhyiddin said that children are normally brought along by their parents or family and are not actively participating.
However, he advised it was best that children are left out of protest gatherings in case unexpected things happen.
Muhyiddin also told the House that the Home Ministry was in talks with state governments and local councils to identify other designated areas outside of Kuala Lumpur for peaceful assemblies.
Earlier, Muhyiddin told lawmakers that the Government will gazatte Padang Merbok and Jalan Raja in Kuala Lumpur as designated assembly places under the Act.
He said outside the city, only Stadium Darul Makmur in Pahang had been gazetted as designated assembly place.
Muhyiddin added that with the new amendments, there would be no distinction between peaceful and street protests, which is in line with the aspiration of the people towards having more freedom.
A total of 8,668 protests and assemblies were held in 2018, and 1,592 were held this year up to May 2019.