‘BN fears giving voice to the people’

Tarani Palani | November 29, 2011

Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim says it is a strength and not a weakness to let people have a say.

KUALA LUMPUR: The Peaceful Assembly Bill is being rushed through the Dewan Rakyat with very little time for debate.

There are five bills to be passed today and as a result the controversial bill will not see much debate.

Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim, who was the first MP to debate the bill, expressed his regret that the bill was rushed to be passed.

Anwar’s arguments mainly centred around the government’s lack of will to provide more democratic space to the people.

“It is a strength and not a weakness to give space for the people to chart the future of the country. Therein lies the real political transformation. It is difficult for the Prime Minister to defend his speech while proposing such restrictive laws,” he said.

He was referring to Najib Tun Razak’s speech that the era “where government knows best” has ended and that government no longer has a monopoly on information.

Anwar also said that only countries that were still under autocratic leadership were afraid to provide more democratic space to the public. Such cases were evident in countries such as Egypt and Tunisia, he said.

He also said that with such restrictive laws, Malaysia was now comparable to countries whose human right practise are highly questionable.

“We don’t have to compare ourselves with America or Europe. Now we have to compare ourselves with Zimbabwe or Myanmar as even these countries don’t have such repressive laws,

“In Myanmar, you have to give five days notice. In Zimbabwe it was initially seven days notice and later it was four after amendments to the law,” he said.

Anwar also repeated what many of the critics to the protest law said last week, that it was a “weak law worse than Section 27 of the Police Act”.

“The terms and condition, the police notice, even the amendments made are nothing much,” he said. He asked why was it so difficult to give the rakyat space to voice their concerns.

“If it is the issue of terrorism, we understand. We are not asking for there not to be any law but we are asking for the people’s freedom not to be impinged upon further”.

Anwar called for the bill to be retracted and a Parliamentary Select Committee to review and amend the bill.

DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng and PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang both agreed with Anwar on the need for a PSC. They said that it was important to have an independent body to review the proposed law.

“Civil society members must be consulted in drafting the new law,” said Lim whhen debating the matter.

The amended version of the Peaceful Assembly Bill was later passed by a simple voice vote. No Pakatan parliamentarians were in the Dewan as they had staged a walkout earlier.

The other bills to be passed today include the Inland Revenue Board of Malaysia (Amendment) Bill 2011, Pensions (Amendments) Bill 2011 and Judges’ Remuneration (Amendment) Bi

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