Lawyers end march, say to keep up pressure on assembly law

November 29, 2011
Lim hands over a copy of the Bar Council’s alternative Bill to deputy minister Datuk V. K. Liew in Parliament today. — Picture by Jack Ooi
KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 28 — The Bar Council warned the Najib administration today it will “continue knocking on the doors of Parliament” if the Peaceful Assembly Bill is passed without public consultation.

Malaysian Bar President Lim Chee Wee urged the government to consider the council’s proposed alternative to the government’s original Bill, which he described as an “unjust law made in haste ... which will impose unreasonable and disproportionate fetters on freedom of assembly”.

The Bar Council president said the body is “pro-justice and pro-rule of law”. — Picture by Jack Ooi

“The Bar will continue knocking on the doors of Parliament if the Bill makes it to the statute books in its current form. We will not give up hope,” he vowed during a brief press conference in Parliament here.

Lim was addressing reporters just moments after he led hundreds of lawyers in the council’s “Walk for Freedom” march to Parliament as a sign of their open defiance of a law they claim infringes on Malaysians’ constitutional rights.

When asked if the council would continue holding more protests if today’s Bill is approved, Lim declined to comment, saying, “Let me finish today first and let’s see how things turn out.”

He acknowledged that any marches held after the Bill is gazetted into law would be against the law but added, “History is full of civil disobedience and events, which have led to changes for the better in the country.”

“But I am a cautious and eternal optimist in that our 222 MPs will uphold the rule of law and the Constitution (when they vote today).”

A protestor holds a sign during the march against the Peaceful Assembly Bill today. — Picture by Jack Ooi
The prominent lawyer, along with nine other representatives from the council, were earlier allowed through Parliament gates and into the lobby to hand over a copy of its alternative Bill to deputy minister Datuk V. K. Liew and a letter of appeal urging MPs to vote wisely.

“We are not anti-government or pro-opposition. We are anti-injustice and anti-unconstitutionality ... We are pro-justice and pro-rule of law. We have always worked closely with the government,” Lim told Liew when handing over the documents.

“We, the members of the Bar are hopeful and will certainly pray that the wakil rakyat will read what we have to say, deliberate, and vote according to conscience and not according to party whip.

“We urge the prime minister, who has made good announcements on Malaysia Day, not to be influenced by others, but to return to the path of transformation that he had promised the rakyat,” he added.

The police presence at today’s march. — Picture by Jack Ooi
Datuk Seri Najib Razak announced a raft of reforms during his Malaysia Day message in September, including the repeal of the Internal Security Act and amendments to other security laws, and promised to increase civil liberties.

Lim also told reporters today that “our country was founded on procession”, pointing to the historic 15,000-strong pre-Merdeka procession led by Datuk Onn Jaafar to protest the formation of the Malayan Union by the British on February 27, 1946.

“Processions or assemblies in motion are very much deep in the history of Malaysia ... which is why we urge the government — do not, with the stroke of the pen, strike back against the very foundation of this nation,” he said.

Liew accepted the council’s alternative Bill from Lim and promised to go through the document.

“I will do the best I can,” he promised Lim.

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