The PH-led government and DIGP Ayob Khan must stop intimidation of the planned M’sia Day rally against Zahid’s DNAA
12 September 2023
We refer to the statement issued yesterday by the Deputy Inspector-General of Police (“DIGP”), Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay, stating that the police will take action against organisers of the planned Malaysia Day protest led by Perikatan National for failure to comply with the law. Similar utterances have been made by Pakatan Harapan politicians.
This is plain and calculated harassment and intimidation, as there has been no indication whatsoever that the rally will not be peaceful.
The law in question, which is the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012, is an unconstitutional legislation that directly violates the right to peaceful assembly under Article 10(1)(b) of the Federal Constitution and renders it illusory. It requires a formal notice to be given to the police five days before the planned assembly. Failure to comply, even if the assembly is already public knowledge, would incur a criminal penalty. Furthermore, the requirement for permission of the owner occupier or owner of the place of assembly is equally oppressive and obstructive, as it includes places where the assembly will merely pass by. It renders any protest march impossible. The restrictions imposed within the PAA effectively results in the negation of the rights to peaceful assembly.
Ministers and members of parliament from Pakatan Harapan are well aware of the repressive nature of PAA, as they were similarly harassed and persecuted for purported violations of the PAA when they organised rallies whilst they were in opposition. It is for this reason that PH previously called for the abolition of the PAA.
But now the persecuted PH appear to have turned persecutors, turning the same law they once criticised against the current opposition.
It is appalling to note that several ministers and members of parliament from Pakatan Harapan have echoed the warning issued by the DIGP against the planned protest on Malaysia Day, under the very same law that they were once victims to. All this despite the fact that there is no indication whatsoever that the rally will not be peaceful. Has Pakatan Harapan has now totally abandoned any and all of their previous beliefs and convictions?
The irony that a government led by Anwar Ibrahim is now preparing to clamp down on peaceful assemblies is clear to anyone even remotely acquainted with the Prime Minister’s political history and his ‘reformasi’ movement. Reformasi was born in the streets, and thrived by defying the Police Act and PAA to hold anti-government rallies.
The statements yesterday by the police and Harapan politicians leave no doubt that the PH-led government and its police are preparing to take action. The pre-rally threats and public warnings to those planning the rally are the same tactics once used by the old BN governments against Pakatan Rakyat and later Harapan. Harapan and its leaders are themselves becoming what they once derided as oppressive and high-handed.
There is truly no turning back towards reform, civility and sanity, should the PH-led government wield the PAA against its political opponents. If the current government is still dedicated to reform, it must allow the Malaysia Day rally on Zahid’s DNAA led by PN to proceed without police interdiction or harassment, and to take immediate steps for the repeal of the PAA. Should criminal action be taken against the organisers of the rally and the PAA remain law, then it will be a resounding affirmation that this government has abandoned reform.
Lawyers for Liberty