Saturday, July 28, 2012

Rally participants not to blame for chaos, says Suhakam commissioner

UPDATED @ 10:10:17 PM 28-07-2012
July 28, 2012
KUALA LUMPUR, July 28 — Those who take part in public rallies may not be entirely blamed for disruption of public order, a Malaysian human rights commissioner said today.
Prof Datuk Dr Khaw Lake Tee, who is deputy vice-chairman of the Human Rights Commision of Malaysia (Suhakam) said “over-precautions” taken in the run-up to peaceful assemblies could also be a cause.
“Do you need to cordon off certain areas? Do you need to cordon off the whole city so as to cause disruption and traffic jams all over the place? Was it necessary?” she asked at an open forum on public assembly laws at the Bar Council here.
“At the end of the day, was it the participants or the authorities that caused the disruption of public order?”
Khaw (picture) was responding to questions on fears that public assemblies may disrupt the lives of other citizens.
Khaw also chairs an ongoing inquiry into abuse of power and violation of human rights during the April 28 Bersih rally in the federal capital.
The rally, calling for the Najib administration to step up electoral reforms ahead of key national polls due in April next year, was held months after the Peaceful Assembly Act was passed by the federal government.
Earlier in her presentation at the forum, she said: “There’s no such thing as an unlawful peaceful assembly.”
Before she spoke, Khaw said she was speaking in her capacity as a Suhakam commissioner.
Today’s event is this year’s third forum under the Siri Pemikiran Kritis (Critical Thinking Series) organised by the Bar Council’s National Young Lawyers Committee (NYLC).
The forum aims to highlight the operation of the new Peaceful Assembly Act 2012, which had drawn much controversy last year when it was speedily passed by Parliament.
Opposition lawmakers and other civil rights activists had cautioned that the law drafted by government lawyers contained inherent weaknesses that could prove more restrictive than the sections of the Police Act it was to replace and protect an individual’s right to assemble freely.
Datuk Yeo Yang Poh, a former president of the Malaysian Bar, and Tan Keng Liang, Gerakan’s Youth Chief also spoke at today’s forum.
Prominent lawyer-activist and Bersih co-chair Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan had last month accused the Najib administration of abusing its power by ordering the police and Kuala Lumpur City Hall to block the April 28 sit-down rally from taking place at Dataran Merdeka here.

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