KUALA LUMPUR, April 27 — Bersih 3.0 participants may assemble tomorrow outside of Dataran Merdeka as planned but will face police action if they march or conduct any form of street protest, city police said today.
Under the Peaceful Assembly Act 2011, which came into force on Monday, assemblies in motion are prohibited but gatherings at designated areas of assembly may proceed without police permit once proper notice is given.
The government has yet to prepare or gazette a list of designated assembly areas under the Act it says will allow freedom of assembly in accordance with international norms.
But the Kuala Lumpur police chief, Deputy Commissioner Datuk Mohmad Salleh, told a press conference here that although Bersih gatherings are permitted in the vicinity, those who encroach into Dataran Merdeka and its bordering streets will face possible arrest.
He said this is due to the court order obtained by police earlier today under Section 98 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) banning any gathering at “Dataran Merdeka and all the land surfaces bordering Jalan Sultan Hishamuddin, Jalan Raja and Jalan Kelab except the area occupied by the Selangor Royal Club.”
Mohmad said the order comes into force at 12.01am tomorrow and will remain in place until May 1.
Bersih leaders and participants are expected to gather at six separate locations tomorrow before moving to Dataran Merdeka — Masjid India, Masjid Negara, Dataran Gajah in Brickfields, Jalan Sultan, KLCC and Pasar Seni.
Following Mohmad’s statement this afternoon, the groups may be confronted by riot police while en route to the square, as “assemblies in motion” are expressly prohibited under the PAA2011.
The police chief, however, would not say that the rally was considered illegal, only stressing that it would be considered so should protestors attempt to encroach upon the prohibited Dataran Merdeka zone.
“Only these areas,” he said, pointing to a map of the areas surrounded Dataran Merdeka that were highlighted as cordoned off to the public. “Only these shaded areas are considered banned. Other areas are not a problem. Only this. Only Dataran Merdeka areas.”
He refused to reveal the size of the police force to be deployed tomorrow or if hard-handed measures, including the use of tear gas or water cannons, would be used to disperse protestors.
When asked about traffic control, Mohmad gave his assurance that the police team would be keeping close watch to ensure that traffic safety and public order are maintained.
“In terms of traffic safety, we are taking into consideration the needs of those who plan on using the streets in KL tomorrow. We have arranged our teams and we will monitor the situation.
“We have enough police personnel to handle the situation tomorrow... on the numbers, allow only the police to know that,” he said.
On possible road closures tomorrow, Mohmad said this would change according to the situation.
He did not say if it would be considered illegal should Bersih plan to move its protest elsewhere tomorrow, but pointed out that there are many other offences that the group could be committing according to various provisions within the law.
“They could be committing other offences... these offences are wide,” he reminded.