Friday, November 28, 2008

SUARAM:-The Selangor Chief Minister should not undermine the right to assembly

Press statement: 27 November 2008

The Selangor Chief Minister should not undermine the right to assembly

SUARAM strongly condemns the suggestion made by Selangor Chief Minister Khalid Ibrahim on public assemblies in Selangor following an agreement reached with Selangor Police Chief.

Suaram is of the view that the suggestion has clearly undermined the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Federal Constitution and is against the principles of freedom of peaceful assembly set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

According to a news report, Khalid Ibrahim was reported to have said that assemblies at public places should be no more than 15 minutes and participants need to return to private halls to continue on their agenda. He also suggested that the organiser should make an official request to the police for such an event.

The Chief Minister’s suggestion is clearly an executive intervention aimed to re-interpret and water down the human rights standard on freedom of assembly in Malaysia . We fear that the suggested restriction by the state executive will only worsen the current climate of harassment and intimidation on public assemblies. This allows for further restriction to the rights to assemble which has already been limited by the police in their highhanded selective and arbitrary actions.

In Malaysia , the right to assemble peacefully is provided for by the Article 10 (1)(b) of the Federal Constitution. The right to assemble is also a universal basic human right which is clearly stated in Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and other related international human rights conventions.

We would like to remind the Chief Minister about the two successful mass assemblies in 2007, organised by BERSIH and HINDRAF respectively. The two assemblies are clear proof that Malaysians are capable of holding peaceful assemblies. The Chief Minister also definitely failed to note the recognition and recommendations made by Suhakam and the 2005 Royal Police Commission on the right to assembly as both the commissions recommended that Section 27 of the Police Act that imposes restriction on public assemblies be repealed.

The Selangor Chief Minister’s suggestion also goes against the Selangor state government’s pledge to uphold human rights and democracy principles. The Chief Minister should be mindful that 9 months ago, prior to the general election, a number of the State Assembly representatives and EXCO members were also on the streets in solidarity with the people to protest against policies of the federal government.

The Selangor state government should therefore not back-peddle and compromise on human rights standards with suggestions that undermine the internationally accepted standards on the right to assembly.

We therefore call on the Chief Minister to withdraw his suggestion immediately and work towards realizing the wishes of people in promoting the exercise of human rights in this country. The Selangor state government should call for all legal restrictions on peaceful assembly to be repealed and promote the people’s right to assemble.

Released By,
Tah Moon Hui
SUARAM coordinator

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