Media statement by Lim Kit Siang in Kuala Lumpur on Friday, 25rd November 2011:
Najib at loss for words about new Myanmar Protest Bill which requires only 5 days’ notice when he describes his own Peaceful Assembly Bill as “revolutionary” but which requires 30 days’ notice
The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak must be at a loss for words to describe the new Myanmar Protest Bill requiring its citizens to give five days’ notice to the authorities to protest peacefully when he can claim that his own Peaceful Assembly Bill is “revolutionary” but which requires 30 days notice.
Myanmar has always been regarded as the worst laggard country in ASEAN in its utter disregard and contempt for human rights and it must be very mortifying and shameful for the Malaysian government, parliamentarians and people that we now have to learn from Myanmar on how to respect human rights and fundamental constitutional liberties of our people, at least on freedom of assembly!
Does Najib want to send the Home Minister, Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hashim to Myanmar to learn to be more respectful of the fundamental liberties at least with regard to freedom of assembly for the respective citizenry?
This is one powerful reason why the Peaceful Assembly Bill which Najib presented for second reading yesterday should be withdrawn or all Malaysian MPs would not be able to hold their heads high whether in regional or international conferences when the Myanmar Parliament could pass a bill on freedom of assembly requiring only five days’ notice to the authorities while the Malaysian government is demanding 30 days’ notice.
I thought the day will never come for me to say this –the Malaysian Prime Minister and Cabinet should learn from Myanmar at least on freedom of peaceful protest and assembly.
It is no use for Najib to claim on the one hand that he wants to make Malaysia the “best democracy in the world” while on the other hand coming up with a Peaceful Assembly Bill which is unanimously condemned by the civil society and human rights activists as even worse that Section 27 of the Police Act requiring police permit for an assembly for three or more persons.
Has Prime Minister paused and considered why the reaction to the Peaceful Assembly Bill has been so devastatingly negative and the consensus in the civil society and human rights activists is that it will be even worse than the regime under to-be-repealed Section 27 of the Police Act?
As I intimated in Parliament yesterday in the debate on the revocation of the three Emergency Proclamations of 1966, 1969 and 1977, the Peaceful Assembly Bill which is patterned after the - Queensland Peaceful Assembly Act 1992 has evoked a different set of reactions:
“The big difference is that the Queensland Assembly Act clearly facilitates and promotes the right to freedom of assembly while the Peaceful Assembly Bill tabled in this House has the very opposite effect giving the police arbitrary powers to restrict the right to freedom of assembly as in the onerous and unreasonable 30-day notice for an assembly, the ban on ‘street protests’, the host of restrictions which could be imposed by the police for any assembly at a time when the public have no confidence in the independence and professionalism of the police as it has no concept of ‘democratic policing’ but is still obsessed with ‘upholding the regime’ as its primary task.”
The parts where the Peaceful Assembly Bill had lifted from the Queensland Peaceful Assembly Act 1992 are generally acceptable but the most objectionable provisions in the Peaceful Assembly Bill are those parts which are not to be found in the Queenland Act – and which by and large should be removed.
The Peaceful Assembly Bill should be completely revamped and this is why it should be withdrawn and debate for its second reading should not continue on Tuesday.
As the Prime Minister claimed that the Peaceful Assembly Bill “represents a step towards strengthening the sovereignty of the rule of law while upholding the freedom of the fundamental liberties in Malaysia”, the Peaceful Assembly Bill should be withdrawn to be completely redrafted – particularly in removing the role of Minister of Home Affairs as the super arbiter whether protests and assemblies should be allowed as this role should be played by the courts instead of by a politically-biased Minister if we are serious about “the sovereignty of the rule of law”.
*Lim Kit Siang, DAP Parliamentary Leader & MP for Ipoh TimorTimor