Refusal to accept notice of women’s march is unlawful

Freedom of assembly is protected under the Constitution - THE MALAYSIAN INSIDER

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Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) refers to news reports stating that police have refused to accept a notice under the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012 (PAA) by the Women’s March Malaysia  2024 organising committee.

This is a clear violation of any provision of the PAA, which does not give a right of refusal by the police of any notice sent in compliance with Section 10 of the act.

At most, they may only impose restrictions and conditions on the assembly as per Section 15 of the PAA, which does not give them the power to outright refuse to accept any notice of an assembly duly made.

By refusing the notice, the police are attempting to exert powers of approval over rallies.

It is obvious that the police are refusing to accept the notice by the organisers as a means to justify a later investigation under Section 9(5) of the PAA. They will then use it as a form of police intimidation to create fear among participants of the planned march by saying that the organisers failed to submit a notice which would render the march purportedly “illegal”.

These tactics by the police are unlawful and unconstitutional. Article 10(1)(b) of the Federal Constitution protects the right to peaceful assembly. A breach of any provision of the PAA does not render the ensuing assembly or rally unlawful.

Meanwhile, the government appears to be in agreement with this blatant flouting of the law by the police. Investigations under Section 9(5) of the PAA continues despite it having been declared unconstitutional by the Court of Appeal in Nik Nazmi bin Nik Ahmad v Public Prosecutor in 2014.

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Public statements by police that wrongly declared assemblies unlawful for failure to give notice in line with Section 9 of the PAA have not met with any intervention or direction by the government.

This can only be taken to mean that the Pakatan Harapan-led government thus fully intends to stop peaceful rallies through intimidation by the police.

Not only have they failed in their duty to uphold the Constitution, this is also the ultimate betrayal from PH, whose political success was attributed to such rallies.

There can be no excuse for their failure to ensure compliance of the law by the police, especially when a PH leader is the home minister, who is directly responsible over enforcement authorities.

We do not live in a police state where the police can blatantly ignore the law or interpret it to suit their own purposes.

The government must do its duty and ensure that the peaceful assembly goes on as scheduled in line with Article 10 of the Constitution without police intimidation or threat of investigations. Ultimately, the buck stops with the government.

Zaid Malek is director of Lawyers for Liberty.

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.
AGENDA RAKYAT - Lima perkara utama
  1. Tegakkan maruah serta kualiti kehidupan rakyat
  2. Galakkan pembangunan saksama, lestari serta tangani krisis alam sekitar
  3. Raikan kerencaman dan keterangkuman
  4. Selamatkan demokrasi dan angkatkan keluhuran undang-undang
  5. Lawan rasuah dan kronisme
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