Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Peaceful Assembly Bill 2011 tabled

So the Peaceful Assembly Bill was tabled this morning. Somehow or other, there are gray areas which I believe UMNO will exploit to make any assembly unworkable. Among the main points of the proposed law are, with my views highlighted in bold, within parenthesis:

  • 30 days' advance notice for assemblies, except for those in designated areas as defined by the home minister. [Even if a 30-day notice is given, there is no guarantee that it will be approved. Furthermore, where are the designated areas? Will these areas be those not conducive to hold any assembly? My guess is that Petaling Street, Jalan Tun Perak, Jalan Pudu and Jalan Bukit Bintang will not be those designated areas].
  • After notification, the assemblies can proceed, unless there are objections from the police [which in most cases there will be. This is so subjective]
  • No street protests are allowed [Refer to my remarks under the first bullet point].
  • No protests in or anywhere in a 50-metre buffer zone around prohibited areas defined in a list, which includes hospitals, schools and places of worship [If no street protests are allowed, then this item is deemed irrelevant. But why this prohibition when MCA was so sure that no tear gas or chemical laced water shot into the Tong Shin Hospital? Aha, so it was a lie after all].
  • Section 8 allows a police officer 'to take such measures he/she deems necessary' to ensure compliance [Doesn't this sound arbitrary?]
  • Section 9(5) allows the police to fine organisers up to RM10,000 if no advance notice of a planned assembly is given to the police [For not giving notice and UMNO wants to impose a fine of RM10k on the organisers? Right now the practice is "no permit, no assembly". Even with such a prohibition, organisers will still proceed and will be all too willing to pay the fine, if the cause is a noble cause to take up, like clean elections].
  • Section 20(1)(c) allows police to arrest anyone who brings, allows to come or recruits children for an assembly [another arbitrary move].
  • Section 21(3) allows the police to fine those arrested up to RM20,000 [So this is one way to deter participation, is it?]
  • Those under 21 years of age are not allowed to organise assemblies [Why not? People below this age group are already in the know of what is happening around them, socially and politically, especially with the information flow coming from the internet. This part of the bill is so condescending.] and
  • Children under 15 are not allowed to take part in assemblies, except in cultural or religious events such as funeral corteges or events approved by the home minister.
So there we have it. What UMNO is telling us is that NO ASSEMBLY OR DEMONSTRATION IS ALLOWED, period! I guess the bill lives up to its name, Peaceful Assembly Bill, because there will be no assembly at all. My gut feeling also tells me that the GE13 will be held before the PSC could come out with their recommendations. Since Bersih has already warned UMNO that should they [UMNO] conduct the GE before the PSC's work is completed, there will be another rally, maybe on a larger scale. As UMNO is not prepared to take any chances, this bill is meant to preemptively take the wind out of Bersih.

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