The Peaceful Assembly (Amendment) Bill 2019 has been passed with some last-minute amendments by the Home Ministry.
The new amendments have further shortened the notice period organisers need to give the police to five days.
Under the initial proposed amendments, organisers of peaceful assemblies or street protests needed to 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 the MPs during debates on the notice period.
“It is important to have a reasonable period for the police and others to take note of such gatherings, they need time to deploy manpower,” he said in his winding up of the points raised during the debates on the Bill.
The Home Ministry also introduced a new clause to the Bill, which requires the police to revert to the organisers within three days, from the current five days.
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.
“If you are compounded, then just pay the compound and don’t challenge it in court,” he said.
The proposed change introduces Section 21A which empowers the police, with written permission from the Deputy Public Prosecutor, to fine organisers or participants with a maximum RM5,000 for any offence under Section 9 or Section 15 of the Act.
The 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 they were normally brought along by their parents or family and were not actively participating.
However, he advised it was best that children be left out of protest gatherings for safety reasons.
Muhyiddin also said 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 said the government would gazette Padang Merbok and Jalan Raja in Kuala Lumpur as designated assembly places under the Act.
He said only Stadium Darul Makmur in Pahang had been gazetted as a 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.