Thursday, December 29, 2011

Peaceful Assembly Bill Passed

The much-criticised Peaceful Assembly Bill was passed at the Dewan Negara today (December 20), merely 22 days after it was pushed through the Dewan Rakyat last month.

The Bill was tabled by Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department VK Liew in the afternoon and passed after nearly four hours of debates. Senate President Abu Zahar Nika Ujang allowed all senators to take part in the debate. However, only six BN senators and four Pakatan Rakyat senators offered their views.

The Bill was passed after bloc voting, with 39 senators supporting the new legislation that prohibits street demonstrations, while eight senators opposed it.

Bloc voting was requested by a Pakatan senator to record their discontent with the problematic law. UMNO senator Abdul Rahman Bakar quipped that the move was only a waste of time, and passed his “condolences” to those on the opposition bench.

During the debate, PKR senator Syed Husin Ali (left) retorted that the Bill overrides the provisions under the Federal Constitution as Article 10(1)(b) accords the people with the right to assemble peacefully.

He argued that although the legislative body has the powers to enact laws to restrict freedom, the Peaceful Assembly Bill is being mooted to completely wipe out the right to street protest.

“The constitution is the highest law in the country, all the laws should be subject to it,” he said, adding that the constitution is “weak” as it has been amended more than 170 times.

Syed Husin also took on the Police, accusing them of being the provokers during peaceful assemblies and rallies.

“They are the one who cause trouble (to the protesters),” he reiterated, citing the hullabaloo that transpired during the Bersih 2.0 rally on July 9 where the police were criticised for manhandling the participants.When the people are ready to disperse, only then will the police chase after them. This is the cause of the chaos,” he said.

Comparatively, in other democratic nations the Police would cooperate with protesters to facilitate the rally instead using force to disperse the gathering.

‘Bill necessary to curb untoward incidents’

Liew, who wound up the proceeding, picked on Syed Husin’s reference to Bersih 2.0, saying that it was Batu PKR MP Tian Chua who caused the melee in KL Sentral by “provoking the Police”.

Justifying the Bill, he said it is necessary to curb untoward incidents during an assembly.NONELiew (right) also picked on the walkout staged by Pakatan parliamentarians during the second reading of the Bill in the Dewan Rakyat, saying that they had missed an opportunity to debate the contentious law.

“They neglected their responsibilities as MPs, they chose to become MPs just to satisfy their political gratifications,” said Liew.

Coming back to the Bill, Liew insisted that as long as peaceful assemblies are confined to the designated places, after the law is gazetted there will be no need to seek Police permission first.

When the Bill was being contemplated in Parliament on Nov 29, members of the Bar Council, flanked by more than 1,000 supporters, marched demanding that the legislation to be withdrawn.

Others found a more unique ways to reject the bill by organising a series of flashmobs at the iconic Kuala Lumpur Twin Towers (KLCC). The activists have been consistently hosting the event every weekend and performing various acts - such as singing around the Christmas tree at the centre court of the mall and picnicking on the grounds.

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