Peaceful Assembly Act 2012
|Peaceful Assembly Act 2012|
|An Act relating to the right to assemble peaceably and without arms, and to provide restrictions deemed necessary or expedient relating to such right in the interest of the security of the Federation or any part thereof or public order, including the protection of the rights and freedoms of other persons, and to provide for related matter.|
|Enacted by||Parliament of Malaysia|
|Date enacted||20 December 2011|
|Date assented to||30 January 2012|
|Date commenced||23 April 2012|
|Bill||Peaceful Assembly Bill|
|Introduced by||Nazri Abdul Aziz/Liew Vui Keong|
|First reading||22 November 2011|
|Second reading||23 November 2011|
|Third reading||23 November 2011|
The Peaceful Assembly Act 2012 (PAA; Malay: Akta Perhimpunan Aman) is the law which regulates public protests in Malaysia. According to the Barisan Nasional government, the Act allows citizens to organise and participate in assemblies peaceably and without arms, subject to restrictions deemed necessary and in the interest of public order and security.
The Act was drafted four months after the Bersih 2.0 rally and two months after the government announced its intention to amend the Police Act. It was tabled in Parliament on 22 November 2011, passed by the lower house on 29 November, and approved by the Senate on 20 December.
The PAA has been strongly criticised by the opposition, which says that the new law if passed will crackdown on the right to protest instead of safeguarding it. The Bar Council and various civil society leaders have also spoken out against the Act.
Prime Minister Najib Razak promised multiple reform initiatives on his Malaysia Day address on 15 September 2011, including repealing the Internal Security Act and abolishing permits for the print media.
An editorial by the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO)-owned New Straits Times said the PAA "is a step, among recent others, [by Najib] to fulfil the promises made in his Malaysia Day address, which included a repeal of stringent laws that had outlived their usefulness." It said that the bill "will enable peaceful airings of grievances and other expressions through public assemblies" without being a "carte blanche for unruly street protests". According to the NST, this is a step by Najib "to take the country’s constitutional democracy to a higher and more mature plane."
While debating the law in Parliament, Najib described it as "revolutionary in nature and a giant leap in terms of improving on current laws." Two government members of parliament have hailed the proposed Act as a step towards the government becoming more accepting of public assemblies. Former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad praised the PAA as having "good intentions... besides preventing certain quarters from taking advantage of a situation, so that violence does not become a problem to the country."
The PAA was passed by the Dewan Rakyat on 29 November 2011 with no dissenting votes after opposition members of parliament staged a walkout during the final debate. Some 500 people staged a protest outside Parliament during the vote. It was passed by 39–8 in the Dewan Negara on 20 December 2011.
The PAA will replace Section 27 of the Police Act, which means police permits for mass assemblies will no longer be required. Instead, organisers must notify the officer in charge of the police district (OCPD) within 10 days before the gathering date. The OCPD will respond to the notification within five days, outlining the restrictions and conditions imposed.
An organiser may appeal to the Minister of Home Affairs if he/she feels aggrieved by the restrictions and conditions and the minister will respond within two days. Any person convicted of failing to comply with the restrictions and conditions can be fined up to RM10,000.
The proposed Act also bars any gathering within 50 m of "prohibited places" such as hospitals, petrol stations, airports, railway stations, places of worship and schools.
Opposition leaders have called the PAA "undemocratic" and have asked for it to be withdrawn. Leader of the Opposition Anwar Ibrahim said the Bill "gives absolute powers to the police, with which the appeal rests with the minister. This is not democractic."Democratic Action Party MP Lim Kit Siang warned against "forcing" the Bill through Parliament without public consultation.
Bar Council president Lim Chee Wee said the new legislation is more restrictive than the present one. "History is full of civil disobedience and events, which have led to changes for the better in the country... Processions or assemblies in motion are very much deep in the history of Malaysia ... which is why we urge the government — do not, with the stroke of the pen, strike back against the very foundation of this nation," he said. On the day of voting, the Bar Council led hundreds of lawyers in a "Walk for Freedom" march from the Lake Gardens to Parliament house.
Bersih 2.0 leader Ambiga Sreenevasan has also voiced her opposition to the PAA, saying, "This Bill restricts our rights as much as possible. It gives unfettered powers to the minister and the police to further restrict the freedom to assemble. It impinges on free speech. In short, it will stymie legitimate dissent in our country."
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