Bersih: Police rejection breaches assembly law
KUALA LUMPUR, April 27 — The police have no powers under the newly-enforced Peaceful Assembly Act to bar tomorrow’s rally for free and fair elections at Dataran Merdeka, Bersih said today.
Bersih co-chairman Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan said that Section 14(1) of the Act, which the Najib administration said would allow freedom of assembly in accordance with international norms, stated that police could only impose conditions for any planned assembly.
“Police have no power to deny the assembly; they can only impose conditions,” she told reporters here.
Section 14(2) of the same Act stated that if no conditions were given, any public assembly may carry on as planned.
“In the letter given to us by the police, there were no conditions imposed. The rally is a legal assembly under the Peaceful Assembly Act. The police have breached the provisions of the Assembly Act,” the former Bar Council president said.
Ambiga also said that it was within the purview and discretion of KL Mayor Tan Sri Ahmad Fuad Ismail to allow Bersih to use Dataran Merdeka for tomorrow’s rally.
“Malaysians do not need permission to gather and sit down at a peaceful protest.
“The Federal Constitution prevails... the historic square can be used by all Malaysians as a public space,” she said.
The Magistrates’ Court here issued an order barring Bersih 3.0 rally participants and members of the public from using Dataran Merdeka and the roads surrounding the historic square from this morning.
Magistrate Zaki Asyraf Zubir granted the order requested by the police and served it to Bersih co-chairman Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan as well the rally organisers at 12.08pm today.
The application for the court order was made by the Dang Wangi district police and Ambiga was named as one of the respondents.
“[Any] gathering at Dataran Merdeka, that is all the land surface bordering Jalan Sultan Hishamuddin, Jalan Raja and Jalan Kelab except the area occupied by the Selangor Royal Club... is now banned, and the public are warned against attending or taking part in any gathering from April 28, 2012 to May 1, 2012,” Zaki wrote.
Dataran Merdeka is closed to the public for 48 hours beginning 6am today, as the authorities move to prevent the Bersih 3.0 sit-in in the historic square tomorrow.
The move against electoral reform movement Bersih is seen as a sign that the hawks in Putrajaya have won the day despite their confidence that the rally has no traction.
KL Mayor Tan Sri Ahmad Fuad Ismail said in a statement that the restriction will be enforced based on Local Government (Dataran Merdeka) (Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur) By-Laws 1992 and section 65 of the Local Government Act 1976.
The police have taken a hands-off approach towards the latest rally with DBKL taking the lead role as it runs the square. The city authorities have just evicted a group of activists calling themselves Occupy Dataran this week, two weeks after they set up a daily camp there.
A similar order last July galvanised a larger turnout in the capital city, with organisers saying nearly 50,000 gathered to walk past roadblocks and policemen who shut down the city. But police said only 6,000 took part in the rally and nearly 1,700 were arrested.
The Najib administration was widely condemned for a clampdown on the demonstration in which police fired water cannons and tear gas into crowds during chaotic scenes that resulted in over 1,500 arrested, scores injured and the death of an ex-soldier.
Bersih’s eight demands are: a clean electoral roll, reform to postal voting, the use of indelible ink, a minimum campaign period of 21 days, fair access to the media, the strengthening of public institutions, a stop to corruption, and an end to dirty politics.
Pakatan Rakyat has pledged its full support for tomorrow’s rally, promising to mobilise thousands of supporters to attend the event