22 August 2015
Facilitate Bersih 4.0, not make exaggerated claims
Lawyers for Liberty views with extreme concern the authorities’ exaggerated and unhelpful reaction to the upcoming Bersih 4.0 rally on 28 and 29 August. Deputy Home Minister Nur Jazlan, Federal Territories Minister Tengku Adnan, DBKL, the police among others, should not feign ignorance that under our Federal Constitution, freedom of assembly is guaranteed as long as it is peaceful, and no rally can be declared as “illegal” under the Peaceful Assembly Act, Penal Code or for failure to get “permission” from the police or DBKL.
We would like to remind the authorities that after the Court of Appeal landmark Nik Nazmi’s decision, the clearest possible message has been sent – that every Malaysian citizen can assemble peacefully, a fundamental right that is guaranteed under Article 10 and any attempt to criminalise peaceful assembly in whatever manner or form is unconstitutional.
It is extremely irresponsible for the authorities to mislead the public and make exaggerated claims that the rally is “illegal” or “out to topple the government” when Bersih’s planned activities and demands are clear, peaceful and certainly within democratic norms. Further, Bersih’s previous rallies and other rallies in general, have been peaceful until the authorities unnecessarily arrested, assaulted, shot tear gas and chemical-laced water cannons against the protesters.
The authorities should be mindful that it is their responsibility to handle any agent provocateur, saboteur and counter demonstration that may occur before and during the rally – not use them as a convenient excuse to demonise and crackdown on the organisers and participants who only want to demonstrate peacefully.
We urge the authorities to respect the people’s right to peaceful assembly and further call on them to cooperate with the organisers for a successful rally including by closing off certain roads and facilitating traffic flow. Any inconvenience is minor and is to be expected in any major public protest in a democracy, not different from the inconvenience caused by government approved public events or road closures for sporting events or construction.
The authorities should further stop giving excuses and feigning cooperation as past experiences have shown that all these “negotiations” have come to nothing as at the end of the day, the authorities do not want the people to assemble in central Kuala Lumpur, especially in Dataran Merdeka for anything that is remotely empowering for the people, even more so for free and fair elections.
Lawyers for Liberty
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