KUALA LUMPUR: The Peaceful Assembly Act, which Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak will table this week as part of his political reforms, will outline restrictions regarding mass gatherings in public.
The new Bill is expected to mirror freedom of assembly laws used in developed countries like Britain’s Public Order Act and Finland’s Assembly Act.
“It will be tabled although the right to a peaceful assembly is guaranteed under Article 10 of the Federal Constitution,” said Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz.
“The government is fine with human rights and freedom of expression but that does not mean you are absolutely free to do anything.
“We must consider and preserve the country’s public security,” he added, stressing that the Bill would be enacted in accordance with the Federal Constitution.
“We studied several templates of other countries’ freedom of assembly laws. This shows that we are serious about protecting Malaysians’ rights,” he told The Star yesterday.
The move, however, has not been well-accepted by Opposition law makers, who feel that the new Act will not guarantee the freedom of assembly for “all Malaysians”.
Responding to this, Nazri said: “Now that we want to implement progressive laws, they are getting cold feet. They know only how to criticise and are not serious about reforming.”
DAP publicity chief and Petaling Jaya Utara MP Tony Pua described the Bill as a “ridiculous idea” as it was already in the Constitution.
“Another law will have no purpose other than restricting the freedom of the rakyat.”
PKR vice-president Tian Chua said the Government needed only to amend the Police Act to allow for more freedom.
“They should abolish the outdated sections, such as the need to ask for permits from the authorities,” added the Batu MP.
PAS vice-president Salahuddin Ayub said the party would look closely at the Bill before supporting or opposing the proposed Act.
Following the move to abolish the Internal Security Act, Najib had motioned to repeal two of the oldest security laws in the country – the Restricted Residence Act and the Banishment Act – in October.
Countries which have legislation similar to the planned Peaceful Assembly Act stipulate when and where a gathering could be held.
For instance, protests in New York are banned outside a designated area, not far from the United Nations venue, while in Hong Kong, police prefer night protests to ensure that businesses are not disrupted.
Source : The Star