Sabah Bersih organiser beats unlawful assembly charge

Former Sabah Bersih chairman Jannie Lasimbang (centre) celebrated at the Sabah courts today  after being discharged and acquitted her of failing to comply with the Peaceful Assembly Act when organising the Bersih gathering last year. — Picture by Julia Chan
Former Sabah Bersih chairman Jannie Lasimbang (centre) celebrated at the Sabah courts today after being discharged and acquitted her of failing to comply with the Peaceful Assembly Act when organising the Bersih gathering last year. — Picture by Julia Chan

KOTA KINABALU, Dec 20 — The organiser of the Sabah edition of Bersih 4, Jannie Lasimbang, has been acquitted by a magistrates court of breaching the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012.

Magistrate Cindy McJuce Balitus said in her ruling that the prosecution failed to show prima facie or establish that the Kota Kinabalu City Hall was the owner of the land where the event took place in August 29 and 30 last year.

She also said that under Section 9(2) of the PAA, a 10-day notice was not required to hold a gathering at a “designated place of assembly.”

Balitus also ordered that Lasimbang’s bond be refunded.

Her acquittal was greeted by joy and relief from some 30 supporters who gathered outside the court.

The former Malaysian Human Rights Commissioner said she was glad the case was finally over after more than a year since she was charged.

“I am glad to hear that the courts have recognised the right of the people to peaceful public assembly.

“I maintain that  the charge shouldn’t have been imposed on me as it is a waste of many people’s time and effort,” she said.

In October last year, Lasimbang was charged under Section 9(5) of the PAA for failing to provide 10 days’ notice for each of the two days the public gathering was held.

She was alternately charge under Section 15(3) of the PAA for organising the event without fulfilling all instructions ordered by the city police on both days, to which she pleaded not guilty last year.

The overnight rally on August 29 to August 30 was held along Kota Kinabalu’s Likas bay esplanade and was attended by some 3,000 on the first day.

It ended two hours shy of its 24-hour target after a police barricade stopped some 500 rally participants from walking towards the city.

They were around the halfway point to their destination of the Kota Kinabalu City Hall building to hand over a memorandum asking for their rights to hold a peaceful assembly in a public space.

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