Putrajaya moves to allow street protests

In the amendment Bill tabled for the first reading today, Putrajaya proposes to remove street protests as a criminal offence. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
In the amendment Bill tabled for the first reading today, Putrajaya proposes to remove street protests as a criminal offence. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

KUALA LUMPUR, July 1 — The government is proposing to remove street protests as a criminal offence via an amendment to the Peaceful Assembly Act PAA (2012).

In the amendment Bill tabled for the first reading today, the government also proposed reducing the mandatory notice period to authorities from 10 days to seven.

The PAA allows public demonstrations but technically prohibits street protests and other forms of moving assemblies.

The PAA (Amendment) Bill 2019 has erased the definition of “street protest” in the amended Section 3 of the PAA 2012.

The term was previously defined as an assembly involving a march to protest or champion a cause, and with the amendment, demonstrators can now march from one spot to another, for what they would have been punished previously with a RM10,000 fine under Section 4(3)©.

In the proposed Bill, street marches are also no longer an offence.

Under the proposed amendment to Section 9(1) of the Act, organisers of public protests need to only submit a seven-day notice to the police and the police thereafter, are allowed to impose restrictions deemed fit to preserve public security and order, and to protect the rights and freedom of others.

The restrictions include date, time and duration of the assembly, the venue of the assembly, the manner of the assembly, the conduct of participants during the assembly, the payment of clean-up cost and others which the district police chief deems necessary.

The Bill states that any organiser aggrieved by the imposition of restrictions and conditions under Section 15, may however, submit an appeal to the Home Minister within 24 hours instead of the previous 48 hours, under Section 16(1).

Under a proposed amendment to Section 12(2), police must now also be notified of any objections within 24 hours, from the previous 48 hours.

A new Section 21A inserted in the proposed amendment Bill also allows the police, with written permission from the deputy public prosecutor, granting them the power to fine protestors to a sum not exceeding RM5,000.

Police are allowed to compound the protestors at any time after the suspected offence is committed. However, the compound offer must be made before a formal charge is brought against the suspect.

Failure to cough up the compound as per the amount offered by the police, could result in charges being brought against the organiser or participant of the public rally.

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