Home minister moves to decriminalise street demonstrations

Home Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin is pictured at the Parliament lobby in Kuala Lumpur July 4, 2019. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
Home Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin is pictured at the Parliament lobby in Kuala Lumpur July 4, 2019. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

KUALA LUMPUR, July 4 — Those taking part in street protests or rallies will no longer be criminalised if amendments to the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012 (PAA) are passed. 

In the bill’s second reading today, Home Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin proposed the decriminalisation of street protests among other things, including shortening the notification period to the authorities.

“The Peaceful Assembly (Amendment) Bill 2019 is proposing the following changes: 

“Abolishing the provisions prohibiting street protests and this action will no longer be an offense under the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012 (PAA2012).

“Shorten the notice period to organise a peaceful assembly by the organisers to the Officer in Charge of a Police District (OCPD) from 10 days to seven days.

“Allocating a compound on offenses under Section 9 (notice of peaceful assembly) and 15 (restrictions and requirements for peaceful assembly) PAA 2012,” said Muhyiddin.

He explained that any offenses committed during a street protests that triggered chaos, violent crimes and public disturbance will fall under Chapter Eight (VIII) (Offences Against the Public Tranquility) of the Penal Code (Act 574), particularly Sections 143 and 147 of the Penal Code.

Regarding the compound, the Pagoh lawmaker told the Lower House that the power to issue the compound falls under the discretion of the district police chief with the permission of the public prosecutor.

Offenses that triggers a compound falls under Section 9 of the PAA2012 which is the failure to notify police on a public assembly and under Section 15 of the PA212 which is the failure to adhere to any terms and conditions issued by the district police chief to the organiser.

“The maximum amount of the compound cannot be more than RM5,000. 

“Therefore, Members of Parliament need not concern themselves because the offenses under PAA is considered to be a light offense and not a criminal offense where a Member of Parliament will lose their position and lose the opportunity to contests in any elections,” said Muhyiddin.

Furthermore, the ministry plans on proposing more locations where peaceful public assemblies can be held where organisers do not need to notify the authorities. 

However, the organiser must request permission from the owner of the premises.

For the time being, only one location has been gazetted under Section 25 of the PAA2012 and it is the Darul Makmur Stadium in Pahang. 

“The Home Ministry has proposed that Padang Merbok and Jalan Raja in Kuala Lumpur will be gazetted in the near future while identifying more popular public places that has been the focus of assemblies to be gazetted,” said Muhyiddin.

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