Minister backs right to peaceful assembly, calls for review of Act after police investigations into Undi18 rally

Housing and Local Government Minister Datuk Zuraida Kamaruddin said she firmly believes in freedom of assembly as enshrined in the Federal Constitution. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri
Housing and Local Government Minister Datuk Zuraida Kamaruddin said she firmly believes in freedom of assembly as enshrined in the Federal Constitution. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri

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KUALA LUMPUR, April 3 — Housing and Local Government Minister Datuk Zuraida Kamaruddin has today called for a review of the Peaceful Assembly Act.

This comes after the police hauled up protesters, including MPs and civil society activists, for questioning over their participation in last week’s Undi18 rally.

In a statement, Zuraida said she firmly believes in freedom of assembly as enshrined in the Federal Constitution in light of the fact that she was arrested and detained for exercising this right in the past.

“I do understand that in this case, the police, in investigating the protest, were carrying out their duties under the provisions of the Peaceful Assembly Act. That law needs to be reviewed to better facilitate peaceful public assemblies. I do not believe it is their intention to oppress anyone.

“Wholly peaceful public assemblies should not be subjected to any police investigation; they should be facilitated by the police, while taking into account legitimate concerns of public order.

“The right of the protesters to gather peacefully and express their views must be defended, as long as Covid-19 SOPs are adhered to,” her statement read.

Zuraida said she will raise the matter in Cabinet soon.

Yesterday, Petaling Jaya MP Maria Chin Abdullah, Simpang Renggam MP Maszlee Malik, Segambut MP Hannah Yeoh and former Bersih 2.0 chairperson and Bar Council president Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan were called up for their involvement in the Undi18 protest at the gates of Parliament on March 27.

About 200 university students and members of non-governmental organisations made up the majority of rally participants.

On Tuesday, other politicians and activists including Shah Alam MP Khalid Samad, Ketari state assemblywoman Young Syefura Abdullah, Pakatan Harapan Youth chief Shazni Munir Mohd Ithnin and Malaysia United Democracy Alliance (Muda) secretary-general Amir Abd Hadi were also asked to give statements to the police.

Dang Wangi police chief Mohamad Zainal Abdullah said both cases are being investigated under Regulation 11, Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases (Measures within Infected Local Areas) (Conditional Movement Control) (No. 4) 2021.

He added that the rally was also being investigated under Section 9 (5) of the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012 as an assembly that proceeded without proper notice.

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