UMNO government cannot rob Malaysians the right to assemble

Bar Council plumps for Parliament panel to review peaceful assembly bill
November 26, 2011

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 26 ― Bar Council chief Lim Chee Wee is pushing Putrajaya to refer the controversial Peaceful Assembly Bill to a parliamentary select committee (PSC) for review instead of making a further mess of the proposed law.

In an email statement to The Malaysian Insider today, Lim noted the government’s decision to amend seven provisions in the proposed law was “mildly positive” but stressed it was not responding to the real problem.

“It is being rushed with unholy haste into law without adequate public consultation,” the lawyer said.

He noted that much of the government’s amendments to the proposed law remained unknown, except for the plan to shorten the advanced notice to the police for a “static assembly” to be held, from 30 days to 10.

Lim pointed out there were many other “objectionable” provisions in the proposed law that also bans street demonstrations, or as he called it “assemblies in motion”.

In comparison, he said in the UK, no notice is required for static assemblies, while “assemblies in motion” only needed a six-day advanced notice. In Finland, organisers only needed to give notice six hours ahead of the planned assembly.

“This is outrageous,” Lim said, and cited a famous English judge, Lord Alfred Denning, who had said that “freedom of assembly is a hard-earned freedom not to be taken for granted”.

He added that history is full of warnings against suppression of such rights and reminded the Barisan Nasional government of Umno’s 15,000-strong march against the colonialist government’s Malayan Union idea, which disregarded the Malay interest.

Lim also reminded home minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein that it was his grandfather, Datuk Onn Jaafar, who led that historic march that inspired many other “peaceful processions” nationwide, including against Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim in 1998 when the latter was deputy prime minister.

“The government cannot now rob us of this right of assemblies in motion which is presently not prohibited in the Police Act,” Lim said.

He said that because of these reasons, the lawyers will continue with their protest march, which they call “Walk For Freedom”, next Tuesday.

The Malaysian Insider understands that the Bar Council has also drafted an alternative to the government’s proposed peaceful assembly law and will submit a copy of it for consideration after their march.

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