Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A blow for Freedom of Peaceful Assembly/Expression and anti-ISA struggle

A most disappointing judgment of the court, and a great blow to the Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and protest in Malaysia.

Well, really the Federal Constitution provides for this Freedom - but our laws take it away when it says that this freedom cannot be exercised without the permission of the police. And if you do apply, the giving of the permission normally is delayed - and even if given, the conditions imposed are draconian. I remember some time back when I heard that when an opposition party applied for the police permission to hold a political dinner gathering, permission was allegedly granted on condition that there be no political speeches. In any event, why should we ask police for permission. I believe that requiring the informing of the police of such a protest for the purpose can come guarantee that this right of peaceful assembly is exercised without interference from 3rd parties, or obstructions to traffic flows, etc..., it may be OK - but in Malaysia, the police is given the almost absolute power in determining whether we can exercise this right of peaceful assembly.

There is a new law (maybe still not law) governing Peaceful Assembly, and the government allege that it will do away with police permissions, etc - but this is only if the protests are held at designated areas. Unfortunately, I did not see any list of designated areas, and if they say it can be done only in closed-door environments, including stadiums - it really defeats the purpose of freedom of assembly and protest, which must be done in a public area because the object of such protests is to convince members of the public about the cause, concern or issue - what is the use of like minded people already convinced of an issue coming in a room gathering, shouting slogans and carrying banners...

What is worse is that this was an anti-ISA protest - and even this BN government has declared that they will be repealing this most draconian law (which of course is yet to happen if it ever does) 

Given the BN's alleged position now on peaceful assembly and the ISA, the right thing that they should have done is withdraw the charges earlier and not proceed with this trial....but they chose not to, and that is indicative that our government really is not for 'freedom of peaceful assembly' or even the abolition of the ISA and other Detention Without Trial laws...

16 anti-ISA protesters guilty of illegal assembly
Sixteen people who were arrested three years ago for protesting against the Internal Security Act were found guilty of illegal assembly by a sessions court in Kuala Lumpur today.
Eleven of the 16 whp were present in court today were sentenced to a day's jail and fined RM2,000 each, or a week's jail in default, by sessions judge Ainul Shahrin Mohamad.
The sentencing of two others who could not be present in court today and three others who were absent and had arrest warrants issued against them, will be delivered on March 21.

Judge Ainul ruled that the charge against the 16 had been proven beyond reasonable doubt and the accused failed to create doubts on the prosecution case.

The 16 people were on Aug 3, 2009, charged with illegal assembly under the Penal Code. Alternatively, they were charged with illegal assembly under the Police Act 1967.

NONEThey were arrested between 9am and 1.30pm on Aug 1, 2009, in the vicinity of Masjid Negara and Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman, Kuala Lumpur.
Three of the accused were not present in court and judge Ainul issued warrants of arrest against them.
The 16 are Nordin Mohamad, Hayati Abdul Samad, Salmah Ismail, Norlaila Othman, Nashita Mohd Noor, Rashini, Hasbullah Pit, Wan Muhamad Jazlan Razali, Mohd Petri Mohd Yassin, Syaza Muaz Shaharudin, Mohd Sukri Mohd Sirat, Mohamd Sukeri Muhammad, Mohd Sallehuddin Yusop, Zulsifli Kama Kutty, Mohd Fazlzy Mohd Ismail and Norazam Sakib.

The two  “absent with reason” are Hayati and Syaza, who had informed the court of their inability to attend. Hayati's mother died early this morning, while Syaza is attending to her mother who is seriously ill.

The offence of illegal assembly is punishable with a jail term of six months and a fine.

DPP Yusaini Ameer Abdul Karim prosecuted.

Among the MPs present during the hearing were PKR vice-president Nurul Izzah Anwar (Lembah Pantai) and Tian Chua (Batu). Selangor PKR government information chief Badrul Amin, PSM secretary-general S Arutchelvam and the late Teoh Beng Hock's sister, Lee Lan.- Malaysiakini, 22/2/2012, 16 anti-ISA protesters guilty of illegal assembly

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