Saturday, November 05, 2016
Suhakam Commissioner Jerald Joseph says police should allow peaceful demonstrations, even if they are held at Dataran Merdeka.
PETALING JAYA: A Suhakam commissioner has reminded the police that it is their duty as custodians of the law to protect the public’s rights, including the right to assemble at a public place such as Dataran Merdeka.
“The authorities should not find provisions in the law to disable any right,” said Commissioner Jerald Joseph in response to Inspector-General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar’s criticism of Suhakam’s decision to defend the rights of Bersih and the Red Shirts movement to hold the demonstrations they have planned for this month.
Khalid, citing the Peaceful Assembly Act, had said the two groups’ chosen venue, Dataran Merdeka, could not be used since Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) had refused to give its permission.
However, Jerald said any group of citizens wanting to use public spaces as venues for peaceful demonstrations should be allowed to do so.
“Public spaces are managed by public institutions as custodians,” he said. “Those institutions are not the private owners of these public properties.”
Nevertheless, he added, he believed Bersih would respect the decision to declare Dataran Merdeka off limits.
He recalled that during Bersih’s last rally, the demonstrators did not go into Dataran Merdeka because it was off limits.
“If DBKL again says ‘No,’ then it will be a place that will be zoned off and I hope the rally organisers will be wise enough to realise that there are other places around that area they can use to express their rights,” he said.
“At this point, all I can say is that I don’t think Suhakam is calling on anyone to break through any barricades. That has never been our intention.
“Our intention is simply to say that the spirit of the law must be enabled and if people want to assemble for whatever objectives, then they should be allowed to.”
Yesterday, Bersih chief Maria Chin Abdullah said the Nov 19 rally will not be called off, postponed or held in an enclosed area. - FMT News, 3/11/2016