We looked like we were attending a funera

November 30, 2011

From E Nalini, via e-mail

Suaram is deeply disappointed with the passing of the Public Assembly Bill 2011. We see this day as a “Black Day” for democracy in Malaysia where one of the key fundamental human rights is being curbed by the government despite opposition from the people.

We condemn Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak and his Cabinet for the speedy tabling and passing of the Bill despite large protest from the people as evident by the protests, vigils and 1,000 strong Walk for Freedom assembly held yesterday.

In one move, the BN Parliamentarians who passed the Bill has single-handedly made the Walk for Freedom seem as though the people were attending a funeral procession for the death of democracy and human rights in Malaysia.

The Bill has been slammed for limiting democracy and freedom of Assembly as it effectively paves the way for the prosecution of anyone who attends or organise peaceful assembly or procession.

Although the government has amended the Bill after protest from the people and civil society, but the Bill is still unacceptable because it still provides adequate power to the police and Home Minister to make decisions curbing this freedom.

Besides that the bill is prohibiting street protests and also spontaneous assembly’s which has been another form of people to show their protests. This bill is against the international standards and Article 10 (1) of the Federal constitution.

Despite the amendments, this Bill still falls short of upholding international human rights standards and Article 10 (1) of the Federal constitution.

We are concerned about the repercussion of these proposed legislative changes on the human rights work of Malaysian NGOs, Civil Society, political parties and Citizens which would come under even more intense government scrutiny.

The new proposed legislation while recognising the need for peaceful assembly merely acts to further limit this fundamental right.

Suaram hereby urges the government to adopt the recommendations made by Suhakam in its 2001 special report on ‘Freedom of Assembly’ to the Parliament. In the report, Suhakam proposed several noteworthy recommendations based on the findings and best practices in other countries and through various discussions with the police and other interested parties.

Suaram opposes the Bill and urge the government to withdraw the Bill immediately or organise an open consultation with civil society to review the objectives and provisions of this Bill.

We also urge the government to remove restrictions under the Section 27 of Police Act and Penal Code and establish an Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) as per the recommendations made by the 2005 Royal Commission on Policing without further delay.

The fight against the Bill will continue despite it being passed at the Dewan Rakyat. The Bill still has to be approved by the Dewan Negara. Kempen Kebebasan Berhimpun calls on all Malaysians to stage their protest to stop the Bill from being an Act.

The writer is programme manager of Suaram

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