Malaysian Bar: Right to peaceful assembly provided for by Constitution

Malaysian Bar: Right to peaceful assembly provided for by Constitution
A huge crowd walking to the outskirts of Dataran Merdeka in Kuala Lumpur on 28 April 2012 for the Bersih 3.0 rally. The Malaysian Bar criticised the police's decision to disallow the Bersih 4.0 rally.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

PETALING JAYA - The Malaysian Bar has criticised the decision of the police to disallow the Bersih 4.0 rally stating that the right to assemble peacefully is provided for by the Federal Constitution.

"The constitutional right to assemble peaceably and without arms is guaranteed by Article 10(1)(b) of the Federal Constitution," said Malaysian Bar president Steven Thiru in a statement on Saturday.

He said that there was previously a restriction found in Section 27 of the Police Act 1967, whereby a licence from the police was required for an assembly.

However, the section was repealed in 2012 and the requirement to obtain a licence from the police under the Police Act 1967 no longer exists.

The Peaceful Assembly Act (PAA), however, requires the police to be notified of an intended assembly.

It also allows the police to regulate an assembly by stipulating restrictions and conditions for the purposes of security or public order.

Steven, however, pointed out that the PAA has no requirement of licensing by the police for an assembly.

"Thus, the police have no power under the PAA to prohibit a rally," he said, adding that the police's decision to disallow the Aug 29-30 rally is contrary to the Act, and legally flawed.

Steven also cited a case where the Court of Appeal affirmed the constitutional liberty to assemble peaceably as a fundamental right of all Malaysians.

"The Court of Appeal decided that the failure to give notice of an intended assembly will not be subject to criminal sanction under the PAA," he said.

The police, he added, must "respect and facilitate the constitutionally guaranteed right to assemble peaceably and without arms".

"This is a duty imposed by law on the police, and it is not a question of their 'tolerance' of the exercise of the constitutional right by citizens. "The Malaysian Bar strongly urges the police and the authorities to respect the constitutional right of citizens to assemble, and to allow the Bersih 4 rally to proceed unhindered," he said.

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