Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) refers to the police investigation against those who gathered outside the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission headquarters on Thursday, in support of Bersatu president Mahiaddin Yasin.
The police probe is oppressive, unnecessary and unbecoming of any government or leader that claims to be “reformist”. The gathering at the MACC was peaceful. Hence the purpose of the police probe cannot be to safeguard public order; it is to prevent the expression of dissent and the right to assemble. That is an unlawful act by the police and government.
The right to peaceful assembly is protected under Article 10(1)(b) of the Federal Constitution, and this right is shared by all, irrespective of political alignment.
Pakatan Harapan (PH), which now forms the backbone of the federal government, has consistently over the years supported the public’s right to freedom of assembly without police harassment. Was it all mere rhetoric?
Public assemblies can occur on the spur of the moment as an immediate response to an event, exactly as what occurred in the case of the gathering by those in support of Mahiaddin at the MACC headquarters. It would be unreasonable to expect them to strictly comply with the Peaceful Assembly Act (PAA), and demanding that would be an unconstitutional limitation of the right to public assembly under the Constitution. The PAA is subordinate to the Constitution.
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This was always the position taken by PH when it was in the opposition. PH maintained that it was a sacred right protected under our Constitution that must not be curtailed by the PAA.
It would be obvious hypocrisy and double standards for a PH-led government to now preside over a crackdown on peaceful public assemblies held by the current Opposition.
The gathering by supporters of the Bersatu president was peaceful and the crowd peacefully dispersed after the event. There is neither legal nor moral justification for a criminal investigation to be opened against them.
Hence, we strongly urge the PH-led government to not renege on its own principles now it is in power, by ensuring that the right to assemble peacefully is entirely protected.
First, there must be an immediate halt to all police investigations against any person who was part of the assembly at the MACC headquarters.
Second, Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim and the government must give a public undertaking that there will be no further crackdown on any peaceful rallies or assemblies in the future, held by any party whether from the government or opposition or civil society or the general public. – LFL
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