Police have no power under PAA to stop Zahid DNAA rally on Malaysia Day, public have right to attend it
15 September 2023
We refer to the statement issued by Bukit Aman Criminal Investigation Department (“CID”) Chief Suhaily Zain yesterday where he stated that the “application” submitted for the upcoming rally on the 16th of September has been rejected as it fails to meet the requirements under the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012 (“PAA”).
Firstly, the police are either ignorant or misconstruing the law; there is no “application” to be made for an assembly under the PAA. The requirement states that the police must only be notified of the assembly. Subsequent to the receipt of the notice, the police may then impose restrictions and conditions to the rally but there is no power for them under the Act to outright deny anyone the right to assemble.
What can be seen from the CID chief’s response here is that the police were in fact notified of the upcoming assembly, the objections merely being to the particulars contained within the notice. Reading between the lines, we can infer that the notice was given five (5) days before the upcoming rally, as it was not cited as one of the reasons of the impropriety of the notice alleged by the police. The OCPD thus would have ample time to clarify with the organisers on the details of the assembly should they wish for the specifics to be clarified, as they are empowered to do. Failure to do so is on them, and the police cannot now turn around and say that the organisers are in breach of the requirements of the PAA and thus the notice is “disallowed” by way of a press conference.
Furthermore, section 14(1) of the PAA requires the Officer in Charge of the Police District (“OCPD”) to respond to the notification within three (3) days of the receipt of the notification if they intend to impose any restriction and conditions to an assembly, failure of which would mean that the assembly shall be allowed to proceed as per the notice. Outside of the statement by the CID chief, there has been no mention that there was any such reply imposing any restrictions and conditions on the rally. As such, the protest should be allowed to go on unimpeded.
In any event, the requirement for notifying the police under the PAA for an assembly is a responsibility imposed on the organisers. This requirement does not supersede the constitutional right to assemble peacefully under article 10(1)(b) of the Federal Constitution. Any member of the Malaysian public who wishes to attend the rally have every right to do so irrespective of any alleged procedural impropriety to the requirements of the PAA. Any harassment or warnings by the police to ordinary participants of the rally would be unconstitutional and illegal.
We again express our utmost disappointment that the PH-led government has allowed the police to propagate fear and intimidation in order to frustrate the exercise of a constitutionally guaranteed right to peaceful assembly.
The Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim and PH leaders, who carried out countless street rallies themselves, should respect and uphold this constitutional right now that they are in power. To do otherwise would be hypocrisy of the highest order.
Thus, we strongly urge the government to ensure that the upcoming rally on Malaysia Day would be free from police harassment and intervention. They must respect the constitutional guaranteed right to peaceful assembly, not only because it is incumbent the government to do so, but it is the moral imperative of a government led by PH, to ensure that this right is protected.
Lawyers for Liberty