Malaysian government moves to decriminalise street demonstrations

Malaysian government moves to decriminalise street demonstrations

Malaysia Bersih rally - on April 28, 2012
Malaysian riot police fire water canon onto protesters after they broke down barricades as they made their way towards Merdeka Square in Kuala Lumpur in 2012. (File photo: AFP/Mohd Rasfan)

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s Home Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said on Monday (Jul 1) that the government’s proposal to decriminalise street protest through amending the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012 would not affect security and public order in the country.

This was because there are still other legal provisions to ensure peace, he said, according to Malay Mail.

“If they say it would be a peaceful street protest, then that is what it should be in the spirit of the law.

“But what happens when it turns out to be rowdy, rough and a lot of other things, then other laws would have to come in, such as the Penal Code or other provision of the laws to ensure that there will be always peace,” he told reporters at the lobby of the parliament.

The minister was responding to concerns that the proposal could lead to violence, like the ongoing demonstrations in Hong Kong over a controversial extradition Bill.

Earlier in the day, the Peaceful Assembly (Amendment) Bill 2019 which, among other things, seeks to do away with offences related to street protests, was tabled for its first reading at the Lower House by Deputy Home Minister Mohd Aziz Jamman.

This follows a change in government policy to uphold the right to assemble peacefully, including the right to organise or participate in a street protest as long as it does not jeopardise security and public order.

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The Bill says that if a street protest results in disturbance, violence or criminal activities, such a situation can be tackled under existing laws like the Penal Code and Criminal Procedure Code.

The Bill also seeks to amend Section 9 of the Peaceful Assembly Act to shorten the notification period for holding an assembly from 10 days to seven days before the date of the gathering.

Speaking to reporters, Mr Muhyiddin said two committees had been formed to look into the amendments of several laws, as part of the PH law reforms.

“We have taken into account many things and this isn’t just done by the ministry.

“There is a lot of process … there was consultation with many bodies, including the Bar Council, the Lawyers for Liberty, and other civil bodies. We roped in many people before we made the decision," he said.

Source: CNA/Bernama/tx(hm)