Question over street protest ban’s constitutionality shifted to apex court

DAP’s federal lawmakers Chong Chieng Jen (right) and Julian Tan Kok Ping challenging the legality of the Peaceful Assembly Act, July 11, 2016. — Picture by Sulok Tawie
DAP’s federal lawmakers Chong Chieng Jen (right) and Julian Tan Kok Ping challenging the legality of the Peaceful Assembly Act, July 11, 2016. — Picture by Sulok Tawie

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KUCHING, July 11 — A High Court here today ordered for a question posed by two DAP MPs, to determine whether a provision in the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012 (PAA) that bans street protests is constitutional, to be referred to the Federal Court.

High Court Judge Stephen Chung Hian Guan made the order after the prosecuting team, led by Deputy Public Prosecutor Mohd Taufik Mohd Yusoff, did not object to the question.

“I am of the view that the question should be referred to the Federal Court as it involves a constitutional issue,” the judge said in his ruling.

Mohd Taufik agreed that the Federal Court should determine whether Section 4(1)(c) of the PAA is inconsistent with Article 10(1)(b) and 2(b) of the Federal Constitution Constitution.

The former article guarantees to the right to peaceful assembly, while the latter relates to altering the boundaries of any state.

No date has been set for the hearing in Federal Court.

Bandar Kuching federal lawmaker Chong Chieng Jen and Stampin federal lawmaker Julian Tan Kok Ping have challenged the constitutionality of the law after they were charged under it for participating in a street protest in support of a Bersih 4 rally last year.

Chong, who is also Sarawak DAP chairman, and Tan, together with others still at large, were charged with taking part in an illegal street protest between 2pm and 3pm on August 29, last year.

The march began in front of Hilton Hotel and passed through Jalan Borneo, Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman, Jalan Tabuan, Jalan Ban Hock before arriving at Song Kheng Hai Rugby Ground, the site of the Sarawak’s edition of Bersih 4.

Under the Act, a “street protest” is defined as “an open air assembly which begins with a meeting at a specified place and consists of walking in a mass march or rally for the purpose of objecting to or advancing a particular cause or causes”.

According to the PAA, the two can be fined up to RM10,000 upon conviction. A fine of over RM2,000 from the court may see them barred from keeping their elected posts or holding any posts in the DAP, according to election laws. 

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