Press Release: SUHAKAM's concern in the incident of Batu Burok, Terengganu

SUHAKAM, 12 October 2007
For Immediate Release

SUHAKAM’s concern in the incident of Batu Burok, Terengganu
The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM) received a memorandum from BERSIH on 13 September 2007 regarding the incident at Batu Burok, Terengganu. SUHAKAM through the Complaints and Inquiries Working Group (CIWG) conducted an investigation of the incident and after deliberation, SUHAKAM decided that although the complaint does have its merits but due to operation of law, a panel of enquiry could not be convened to investigate the complaint.

SUHAKAM has been consistent in our stand that individuals have the right to freedom of assembly as enshrined in Article 10 of the Federal Constitution. This right is also contained in the United Nation Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and other international human rights treaties.
In particular, the report of the SUHAKAM Public Inquiry into the incident at the KLCC on 28 May 2006 was also of the view that the requirement for a license by Section 27 of the Police Act 1967 and the lack of definition of the phase “prejudice to the interest of the security of Malaysia” effectively negates the right to the freedom of assembly enshrined in the Article 10 of the Constitution.
SUHAKAM would like to stress that in order to prevent untoward incidents from occuring, several previous recommendations made by SUHAKAM should be implemented;

  1. Decriminalising peaceful assembly without a license under section 27 of the Police Act 1967 and as such peaceful assemblies should be allowed to proceed without a license.
  2. The repeal of subsections (2), (2A) TO (2D), (4), (4A), (5), (5A) to (5C), (7) and (8) of section 27A of the Police Act 1967, thereby removing the need to apply for a license to hold a peaceful assembly.
  3. Persons intending to organise a peaceful assembly or a peaceful procession shall notify in writing to the OCPD of the proposed assembly or procession. The police and civil society should co-operate to work out details with regard to suitable time frame for the notification and the contents of the notice. Meetings between the organisers of the proposed assembly and relevant police officers so as to confirm the practical arrangements for the assembly or procession.
  4. Any person whose rights may be affected by the assembly or any arrangement relating to the assembly should be allowed to make an urgent application to the High Court for intervention.

There have been cases where some political parties have, without hindrance, been allowed to hold assemblies without a permit. The police should in fact allow all peaceful public assemblies without the need to apply for a license under section 27 of the Police Act and the Police should adopt the guidelines issued in the SUHAKAM Report which “accomodate the exersise of the right to protest within a framework of public order which enables ordinary citizens, who are not protesting, to go about their business and pleasure without obstruction or inconvenience”.
In view of this protest note, SUHAKAM would discuss it again in the Commission meeting to reevaluate the merits and the nature of the complaints.
Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM)
12 October 2007