PETALING JAYA: More needs to be done to recognise a citizen’s right to take his grievances to the streets, according to the National Human Rights Society (Hakam).
Its secretary-general Lim Wei Jin pointed out that there still are many provisions in the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012 that curtail fundamental freedom by imposing “unreasonable restrictions” on such protests.
“Street protests are an inherent and inalienable part of the freedom to assemble under Article 10 of the Federal Constitution,” he said in a statement issued today.
He was commenting on a statement by Home Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin that there are other laws that will ensure that street protests do not turn violent.
“Other laws such as the Penal Code can be used (to act against offenders) if such protests turn violent,” Muhyiddin said when tabling the Peaceful Assembly (Amendment) Bill to decriminalise street protests in Parliament on Monday.
Under the Peaceful Assembly Act, protests are allowed as long as they are contained in one location.
Lim said that instead of just lifting the ban on street protests, the government should repeal the Act. Otherwise, he said, certain provisions could be added or removed.
For instance, he said, disallowing those aged 21 and below from taking part in assemblies is inconsistent with the move to lower the voting age to 18.
“Children also have a right to have their voices heard,” he said in reference to the recent participation by members of the Girl Guides in Malaysia in a global protest on child marriage and another protest by schoolchildren over climate change.
Lim pointed out that organisers of peaceful protests should no longer be required to give prior notice given that the Court of Appeal has ruled that making it an offence is unconstitutional.
In reference to Muhyiddin’s statement that Hakam was one of the stakeholders consulted on the move to decriminalise street protests, Lim clarified that the organisation was only asked to provide feedback on the weaknesses of the Peaceful Assembly Act but not on drafting and preparation of the Bill.
Muhyiddin had said that apart from Hakam, the other bodies consulted were the Bar Council, Lawyers for Liberty and the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia.