Suhakam: Abide by laws on public rallies

Beh Lih Yi & Kuek Ser Kuang Keng
Nov 2, 07    

The Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) today reminded the public and organisers of peaceful assemblies to abide by the ‘existing law and order’.

The three-page statement did not state if the commission was responding to any particular issue. However, it comes just before a mass rally planned by an electoral reform body next week.
The organisers have been told to apply for a police permit or face action.
In the statement, Suhakam reiterated that freedom of peaceful assembly is an important right that is enshrined in the Federal Constitution and the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights.
On that note, Suhakam commissioner N Siva Subramaniam said such a right should be practised with a set of guidelines that have been proposed by the government-backed human rights watchdog.
“The practice of such rights should not encroach or have negative effects on other people’s rights and not have any intention to create violence,” he stated.
Uphold security
Siva said Suhakam’s stand on freedom of assembly has been highlighted in its public inquiry report into a protest – dubbed the ‘Bloody Sunday’ – in May last year.
These recommendations, among others, include:
* To notify in writing to a district police chief of the proposed assembly or procession.
* To ensure minimal disruption of traffic, inconvenience to the general public, damage to property and prevention of injury to persons.
* Appoint marshals to ensure a peaceful assembly or procession.
* Prohibit any person at the assembly to incite hatred or violence.
Siva said although these recommendations had been submitted to the relevant authorities, current law must be adhered to
“Suhakam asserts that the general public and organisers of any planned peaceful assembly ought to abide by the existing laws and order, and exercise the right within the framework of public order to uphold the security of the federation or public order,” he noted.
Contacted later, Siva declined to say if the statement was issued in response to any issue. He added that it was just a reminder to the public from Suhakam.
Bersih to apply permit
Electoral reform body, the Coalition for Free and Fair Elections (Bersih), is planning for a 10,000-people gathering on Nov 10 to protest what they see as unfairness in the electoral system.
The crowd will march from Dataran Merdeka to Istana Negara to hand over a memorandum calling for electoral reforms to the King.
A Bersih delegation met with the Kuala Lumpur police chief Zulhasnan Najib Baharuddin yesterday to discuss issues concerning the rally after being warned that the gathering will not be allowed to proceed without a police permit.
Bersih spokesperson R Sivarasa – who told Malaysiakini earlier today that the coalition has yet to decide on whether to apply for a permit – said Bersih will now put in an application for the permit tomorrow.
“We will send a letter to inform the police and fill up a form according to the procedure tomorrow,” he said, adding that the coalition will continue with its plans even if a permit was not granted.
“People are coming, we will not disappoint them,” Sivarasa, who is PKR vice-president, stressed.
Sivarasa said Zulhasnan had officially written to Bersih yesterday after the meeting to ask them to put in an application for a permit.
English daily Star today however quoted Zulhasnan as saying the application for permit would not be approved and that anyone seen at the Dataran Merdeka at 3pm on Nov 10 will be arrested.
Responding to this, Sivarasa questioned as to why the city police chief had then asked Bersih to apply for permit if a decision has already been made.
Last month, a riot erupted in Batu Burok, Terengganu following the cancellation of a public forum organised by Bersih.