Malaysia

A-G says prosecution looms for violators of assembly act

January 14, 2013

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 14 — Attorney-General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail warned today that people who bring children to gatherings such as last Saturday's rally were liable to face prosecution.

He said the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012 imposed restrictions on the participation of children.

"The law is there. If we have the evidence, we will prosecute," he told reporters after the plenary session of the Conference on the Transformation of Security and Fundamental Rights Legislation, Rights and Responsibilities, here.

Abdul Gani (picture) said the participation of children at public gatherings was prohibited not only in this country but also in several European nations.

The Peaceful Assembly Act 2012 prohibits the participation of people under 15 in public gatherings.

Meanwhile, in his presentation on 'Striking a Balance between National Interest and Fundamental Rights' at the conference, Abdul Gani said the repeal of Section 27 of the Police Act 1967 and its replacement with the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012 was to bring Malaysia's law on freedom of assembly in line with international human rights norms.   

"The new act was modelled on the laws of Australia and Canada. The new act has been criticised as having further curbed freedom of assembly and not liberalising it," he said.  

Abdul Gani said that from 1967 until April 2012, thousands of public assemblies had been held, mostly compliant with the permit requirement. For the period 2007 to April 2012, the same policy was still implemented by the police and unless there was information to indicate that public order and security could be compromised, permits were issued. 

"However during the five-year period, 601 investigation papers were opened on the public assemblies held. Since April 23, 2012, under the new act, 47 public assemblies had been held without the requirement to obtain prior permit.

Most, if not all, have been uneventful with the marked exception of Bersih 3.0," he added.  

He said the government perception of the readiness of the Malaysian public to migrate to a more democratic mode had been proven but much depended on the organisers and participants acting responsibly and in accordance with the law. 

Abdul Gani also said that the decision to amend the Universities and University Colleges Act 1971 was perceived by the general public and civil society as a healthy sign of judicial development and independence in keeping with the growing needs and maturity of the new generation. 

"It is also in line with internationally recognised human rights norms on freedom of association and expression and equal treatment under the law," he said.   

Abdul Gani also said that Malaysia's achievement of Vision 2020 to be a developed country depended on foreign investors having confidence not only in the government but also in the Malaysian legal system. — Bernama