CLS Joins Bar Council in Anti-Peaceful Assembly Bill Walk

Kill the Bill! This is one of the many sentiments expressed by those present at the walk this afternoon organised by the Bar Council against the Peaceful Assembly Bill.

The Bill was proposed by the Federal Government to replace the Internal Security Act (ISA).

More than 1000 lawyers together with members of the public gathered today and walked towards Parliament House to express their discontent towards the Bill.

The Bill which had its first reading last week is now being tabled in Parliament. YB Datuk V. K. Liew, Minister in the Prime Minister’s department was at hand to receive the Petition from the Bar Council President, Lim Chee Wee and his delegation.

Much has been written in opposition to the new Bill. What is clear is that the Bill is not consonant with Article 10 of the Federal Constitution that grants the right to freedom of speech, expression, assembly and association. The Bill is an attempt to restrict the constitutional rights of the people.

The unconstitutional nature of the Bill was summed up in one of the Bar Council press statement as follows:

(1)        Prohibition of street protests (defined widely as “open air assembly which begins with a meeting at a specified place and consists of walking in a mass march or rally for the purpose of objecting to or advancing a particular cause or causes”);

(2)        Prohibition of organisation of assemblies by persons below the age of twenty one years;

(3)        Prohibition of participation in peaceful assemblies of children below the age of fifteen years;

(4)        Unduly onerous responsibilities and restrictions on organisers and assemblies; and

(5)        Excessive fines for non-compliance of the Bill.

In short, the Bill is not “in accordance with the supremacy of the Constitution, rule of law and respect for basic human rights and individual rights”.

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Photo-credit: Trevor Padasian / Joy Appukuttan
One of the many disappointments of the Bill is its restrictions to those below 21 years from organising public assemblies.

In other words it is aimed at students in universities, colleges and tertiary education. These are young people who are in their prime and would one day lead the nation. Yet, this Bill attempts to limit growth and development of our young!

The conditions imposed by the Bill in organising such an assembly are onerous. The organizers of such assemblies must notify the police within 30 days before the assembly (now reduced to 10 days after much protest) and provide details and purpose of the assembly. To the point of being ridiculous, the Bill imposes an obligation on the organisers to state the type of amplification equipment that will be used at the assembly! The failure to do so could subject the organisers to criminal action.

The Bill is a great disappointment! The earlier cheers and accolades accorded to the Prime Minister on his announcement of the abolishment of the ISA on the eve of Malaysia Day were premature! The Government has once again failed the people! There can be no endorsement of Bills that erode the constitutional rights of the people!

Sadly, the Bill has since been bulldozed by the Federal Government in Parliament in defiance to the many calls for its withdrawal.

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