KUALA LUMPUR: The Peaceful Assembly (Amendment) Bill 2019, which among others allow street protests, was passed with amendments by the Dewan Rakyat today.
The bill was put up for a simple voice vote by Deputy Dewan Rakyat Speaker Datuk Mohd Rashid Hasnon, with no lawmakers voting against, after 24 MPs from both sides of the political divide debated the motion.
Besides allowing street protests, the amendment had also initially sought to reduce the mandatory notice period to authorities from 10 days to seven.
However, following strong calls from both sides, Home Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin agreed to reduce the notice period to five days.
He said this was to give organisers who were planning to conduct last minute rallies and gatherings enough time to notify the authorities of their plans.
In his winding up speech, Muhyiddin said the amendment to allow street protests was proof of the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government’s effort to uphold the Federal Constitution to ensure freedom of assembly for the rakyat.
On a call by Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim (BN-Arau) for the Peaceful Assembly Act to be repealed altogether, Muhyiddin said the move was not possible, as the act was necessary to ensure peace and security.
“If we repeal the act, the public can do whatever they want in terms of protests, and if anything bad happens, the government will be the one to be blamed,” he said.
During the debate, Shahidan had urged the government to uphold its pre-election promise to repeal the act, adding that the opposition pact now was more disciplined and unlikely to cause any problems during assemblies, as opposed to when PH was in the opposition.
Muhyiddin rubbished claims that the government was bulldozing the amendments, pointing out the proposals had been discussed for months in a special select committee and had got feedback from various stakeholders.
The Peaceful Assembly (Amendment) Bill 2019 will now be tabled and debated in the Dewan Negara before the amendments are gazetted into law.