THE Kuala Lumpur High Court decision on the status of Bersih has a lot of repercussions, but allowing more assemblies is not one of them.

Lawyers For Liberty co-ordinator Fadiah Nadwa Fikri said the government has to bear responsibility to the damage and injuries caused to the coalition for free and fair elections, as well as those injured in the rallies from police action.

“The government went against Article 10 of the Federal Constituition that guarantees Malaysian citizens the right to freedom of speech, assembly and association.

“What are they going to do? Will they apologise to the public? Will they compensate people who were injured?” she asked.

“We always maintained that Bersih is a legal entity as it is in line with the rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association. The court’s decision reaffirms the rights,” she said.

Bar council president Lim Chee Wee argues the issue of the legality of Bersih is different from the issue of freedom of assembly.

“The decision is correct and must be applauded. This certainly increases public confidence the Judiciary as a check and balance to Executive decisions.

Lawyer Salim Bashir said the court’s decision is not a blanket consent to say that any demonstration in the country is legal.

“The court’s message clear. It is simply respecting the rights to association provided under Article 10 of the Federal Constitution.

“However, that does not legalise other demonstrations as that would still be referred to the Peaceful Assemblies Act,” he said adding that perhaps the time has come for the government to allow such assemblies in light of the decision.

Salim also said the Home Minister has every right to seek a declaration that Bersih is unlawful, as provided for under the Peaceful Assemblies Act.

Lawyer Sangkaran Nair said before the Peaceful Assembly Act the government had a say on the right to assemble.

Suhakam commissioner Muhammad Shaani Abdullah said the court’s decision gave a message to the public that they are free to form any association or coalition.

“Even though Bersih is a coalition, there is no need to register it as it will be dissolved once what it is fighting for materialises. In a way, the decision is also a good reminder to the authorities.

“Since Bersih is now declared as legal, the government must respect the court’s decision,” he said.

The Malay Mail | July 25, 2012