Sunday, June 09, 2013
UPDATED @ 03:50:33 PM 08-06-2013
KUALA LUMPUR, June 8 — The Bar Council today appeared to suggest that the police is exploiting a ten-day prior notice law to block the opposition from holding any street rallies.
Its president Christopher Leong has criticised the authorities for charging Pakatan Rakyat (PR) leaders for allegedly violating the Peaceful Assembly Act (PPA) by failing to issue the notice before holding several “Black 505” protests nationwide, arguing that the it was unnecessary for them to do so.
“There is no reason for the rally organisers to be charged. For me the provision for ten-day notice is ridiculous,” Leong told reporters after attending a forum on constitutional redrawing here, adding that he noticed a “trend” by the authorities to use the law as the reason to prosecute the leaders.
The Bar Council president noted that the prior notice requirement under the PPA was merely drawn to give the authorities time to arrange, facilitate and ensure a rally is held peacefully.
“Under the PPA, there is no approval needed...the ten-day requirement is not a good provision,” he said.
Leong’s criticism comes just as Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar suggested that the opposition had failed to meet the criteria of the provision when it notified the police about its plan to hold a mass rally at Padang Merbok here on June 15.
According to Sinar Harian today, Khalid said the notice was incomplete following PR’s failure to obtain approval to hold a protest against the alleged fraudulent practices in Election 2013 from the city council DBKL.
Home Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi had said that PR could proceed with the planned June 15 rally, dubbed “Black 505”, if it is conducted within the provisions of the PPA.
Leong said the Bar Council would maintain neutrality in the matter but pointed out that it would be sending a team to monitor what is likely to be the biggest poll reform rally held since polls watchdog Bersih 2.0 took the streets last year.
“You cannot quote me saying we agree or disagree with their plan to hold the rally... what we will do is send a team to monitor,” he said.
Immediately after the May 5 polls, PKR’s #siasatPRU13 team made a series of exposes on what it claimed was proof of polls fraud as the opposition moved to pressure Putrajaya to implement polls reform, starting with the complete overhaul of the Elections Commission (EC).
PR and other civil society groups have since held mammoth rallies since May 5 to push their agenda for reform, outlining three main conditions with the first being the resignation of all EC members for its failure to ensure a free and fair Election 2013.
The “Black 505” rallies as they are called, were also created as a movement of protest against PR’s claims of irregularities during the polls, which saw the ruling BN retain power despite losing the popular vote.
In the over 10 such protests held so far, each one drew mammoth crowds of tens of thousands of people, turnouts that PR leaders have said is proof of their solid backing from more than half the country’s registered voters.
Despite losing the overall election, PR’s candidates had garnered more than half the total votes cast on May 5 at 51 per cent while BN lost the popular vote contest with their 47 per cent, a first since the 1969 general election.
But the protests have also led to the widespread crackdown on the opposition and its supporters, with score of politicians and activists finding themselves hauled in for questioning or even detained in lock-ups overnight.
Nik Nazmi was first to be charged on May 17. He claimed trial to charges under the Peaceful Assembly Act accusing him of failure to give early notification for the mammoth Kelana Jaya stadium rally on May 8.
Ten days later, six others faced the same charges for similar gatherings in Perak, Johor, Pahang, and Negeri Sembilan. - Malaysian Insider, 8/6/2013, Bar suggests 10-day notice law exploited to block freedom of assembly