Peaceful protests provide an avenue for the people of a democratic country to express their views and grievances collectively.
Freedom of assembly, which is enshrined in the Federal Constitution, guarantees the people the right to assemble and protest peacefully.
Throughout the country’s history, occasional peaceful protests have helped in the country’s progression and, in many instances, helped hold the government to account.
As Bersih respectfully clarified to the Sultan of Johor regarding his view on street protests, our nation was born out of a protest movement seeking independence from the British.
We recall how the Putera-All Malaya Council for Joint Action organised a peaceful hartal in 1947 to lobby for their “People’s Constitutional Proposals”.
Many of us witnessed the largely peaceful Reformasi demonstrations, which called for wide-ranging political reforms, and the Bersih rallies, which called for electoral reforms and an end to corruption.
Many were also part of the peaceful rallies calling for the abolition of the Internal Security Act and the goods and services tax (GST) as well as protests calling for a minimum wage. And let us not forget the recent ‘hartal doktor kontrak’ (contract doctors’ protest) and the ‘Tangkap Azam Baki’ protest.
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People’s protests have been part of the Malaysian culture for quite a while.
In many instances, peaceful protests, together with consistent advocacy on particular issues over time, resulted in several reforms being introduced. In many other instances, the struggle for change carries on.
Peaceful protests, whichever form they may take, provide an avenue for people to air their grievances. Peaceful protests are not to be feared or deemed as ‘riots’.
Instead, the government should accept and facilitate peaceful protests to allow people’s voices to be heard.
Given the importance of peaceful protests, Aliran was therefore appalled that the police blocked the Malaysian Bar’s recent attempt to stage a peaceful walk to Parliament in support of judicial independence. This stands in stark contrast to several previous protests and walks that the Bar peacefully carried out to lobby for judicial independence, uphold human rights and oppose oppressive laws.
Aliran calls on all quarters to recognise the right to protest peacefully, as freedom of assembly is guaranteed under Article 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
There is nothing to be feared in allowing a peaceful protest, be it a march or a demonstration. A mature government with wise leaders would understand this.Aliran executive committee
26 June 2022