Friday, 30 July 2010

The Right to Assemble, the Police Act and the Constitution

The Right to Assemble, the Police Act and the Constitution

(Azmi Sharom)

(This article is prepared for and presented at the forum " Police Power Abuse and Barisan Nasional Government" which organized by Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM) held on 27th July 2010 at Persatuan Bekas Penuntut Taiwan.)

The Federal Constitution says in Article 10 that people have the right to assemble peacefully and without arms. This right is however limited as parliament can make laws that control the right to assemble if it is in the interest of the security of the federation and public order.

Because Parliament has this power, the Police Act 1967 gives the police the authority to control assemblies. According to the Act, in order to organise a gathering, a person needs to obtain a license from the police.

According to the Police Act any gathering of three people is a public assembly and requires a license [section 27(5)].

Also according to the Act, a group which is not a registered society cannot apply for a licence [section 27(2D)].

Here we can see that the law is very restrictive. The small number (3) of people that will constitute an ‘assembly” is open to all sorts of abuse as the police can declare even a small group as an illegal assembly.

Furthermore, there should be no restrictions on who can apply for a license. The right to assemble is open to everyone. It should not be limited to “registered organisation”

However, one point that I would like to stress here is that is section 27(2) it says:

“....if such police officer is satisfied that the assembly, meeting or procession is not likely to be prejudicial to the interest of the security of Malaysia or any part thereof or to excite a disturbance of the peace, he shall issue a licence in such form as may be prescribed specifying the name of the licensee and defining the conditions upon which such assembly, meeting or procession is permitted...”

From here we can see that the ONLY reason that the police can deny a license is if it is “prejudicial to the interest of the security of Malaysia or any part thereof or to excite a disturbance of the peace”. In other words, if an assembly is peaceful and not a threat to the country, the police HAS to give a license. This appears to be in line with the Constitution.

However if we look at all the examples of peaceful assemblies which did not get a license and which have been broken up by the police due to a lack of license, it is doubtful that the police truly take the Act seriously. For example, how can a peaceful gathering opposing the ISA be a threat to national security or public order?

Furthermore, any conditions placed in a license for a gathering must be in line with the Constitutional right of free speech. The police should not be putting restrictions on what can be said in a gathering except perhaps to say that the laws of the country has to be obeyed in the content of the speech (for example seditious statements should not be made). And even if “seditious” statements are made, then it should be up to the court to decide whether the statements were indeed seditious. The police should not have such wide discretionary powers to stop an assembly based on what they THINK is sedition.

I submit that the Police Act gives far too much power to the Police. But perhaps more importantly is that the Act is not being enforced in the spirit of the Constitution which basically is the ideal that we have a RIGHT to assemble, we have a RIGHT to express ourselves and only if we are a threat to national security and public order can any restrictions be placed on us. If we are not doing those things, we should be completely free to assemble.

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通告 Notification

人民之友 对我国下届大选意见书
(华 巫 英)3种语文已先后贴出

作为坚守“独立自主”和“与民同在”的立场的一个民间组织,人民之友在今年9月24日对即将来临的第14届全国大选投票,发表了一篇以华文书写的“意见书”,题为:投票支持"反对国家伊斯兰化的候选人": 反对巫统霸权统治!莫让马哈迪帮派"复辟"!

这篇意见书的英文译稿(标题是:Vote for “candidates who are against State Islamisation”: Oppose UMNO hegemonic rule! Prevent “the return to power of Mahathir’s faction”!)已于10月22日张贴在本部落格。马来文译稿(标题是:Undilah "calon yang membantah pengislaman negara": Menentang pemerintahan hegemoni UMNO! Mencegah puak Mahathir kembali kepada kuasa!)也已接着在11月13日在此贴出。

此外,人民之友也将通过电子邮件、微信、WhatsApp等方式,尽可能向全国各民族、各阶层、各行业、各宗教的团体和个人,传送我们的这份“意见书”供参考。我们欢迎跟我们对下届大选的立场和见解一致的团体和个人,将这份“意见书”传送到更多的人手中去!

我们希望,我们在意见书内所表达的对下届大选的立场和观点,能够准确而又广泛地传播到我国各民族、各阶层的人民群众中接受考验,并接受各党派在这次全国大选斗争和今后实践的检验。


Pandangan Sahabat Rakyat terhadap PRU akan datang telah diterbitkan dalam tiga bahasa (Melayu, Cina dan Inggeris)

Sebagai sebuah pertubuhan masyarakat yang berpendirian teguh tentang prinsip "bebas dan berautonomi" dan “sentiasa berdampingan dengan rakyat jelata”, Sahabat Rakyat telah menerbitkan kenyataan tentang pandangan kami terhadap Pilihan Raya Umum ke-14 yang bertajuk "Undilah calon yang menentang Pengislaman Negera: Menentang pemerintahan hegemoni UMNO! Jangan benarkan puak Mahathir kembali memerintah! " (投票支持"反对国家伊斯兰化的候选人": 反对巫统霸权统治!莫让马哈迪帮派"复辟"!)dalam Bahasa Cina pada 24hb September 2017.

Penterjemahan Bahasa Inggeris kenyataan tersebut yang bertajuk Vote for “candidates who are against State Islamisation”: Oppose UMNO hegemonic rule! Prevent “the return to power of Mahathir’s faction”! telah diterbitkan dalam blog kita pada 22hb Oktober 2017 manakala penterjemahan Bahasa Melayu telah diterbitkan pada 13hb November 2017.

Selain daripada itu, Sahabat Rakyat juga akan menyebarkan kenyataan ini seluas mungkin kepada pertubuhan dan individu semua bangsa, strata, profesyen dan agama seluruh Negara melalui email, wechat, whatsApp dan pelbagai saluran lain. Kami amat mengalu-alukan pertubuhan dan individu yang berpendirian dan pandangan sama dengan kami untuk turut menyebarkan kenyataan ini kepada lebih ramai orang!

Kami berharap pendirian dan pandangan kami berkenaan pilihan raya kali ini yang dinyatakan dalam kenyataan tersebut dapat disebarkan dengan tepat dan meluas untuk diuji dalam kalangan rakyat semua bangsa semua strata sosial melalui penglibatan mereka dalam amalan pelbagai parti politik dalam pertempuran pilihan raya umum kali ini mahupun amalan masa depan.


The Chinese, English and Malay renditions of Sahabat Rakyat’s opinions about next election have been published consecutively

As an NGO which upholds “independent and autonomous” position and "always be with the people" principle, on 24 September 2017, Sahabat Rakyat had released a Chinese-written statement of views with regard to the voting in the upcoming 14th General Election, entitled “Vote for candidates who are against State Islamisation: Oppose UMNO hegemonic rule! Prevent the return to power of Mahathir’s faction!” (投票支持"反对国家伊斯兰化的候选人": 反对巫统霸权统治!莫让马哈迪帮派"复辟"!)

The English rendition of this statement entitled "Vote for “candidates who are against State Islamisation”: Oppose UMNO hegemonic rule! Prevent “the return to power of Mahathir’s faction”!" and the Malay rendition entitled "Undilah "calon yang membantah pengislaman negara": Menentang pemerintahan hegemoni UMNO! Mencegah puak Mahathir kembali kepada kuasa!" had been released on 22 October and 13 November respectively.

Apart from that, Sahabat Rakyat will also make every effort to disseminate this statement as widely as possible to organizations and individuals of all ethnic groups, religions and all walks of life throughout the country via email, WeChat, WhatsApp and other channels. We welcome organizations and individuals with the same position and views to spread this statement to more people!

We hope that our position and views pertaining to the next General Election expressed in the statement will be accurately and widely disseminated and also examined by the popular masses of various ethnicity and social strata through their involvement in the struggle of the next General Election carried out by various political parties and their practices in all fields in future.

Malaysia Time (GMT+8)