Bersih 3.0 asks why the government could allow the Police Day celebration to be held at Dataran Merdeka but objects to its planned sit-down protest.
PETALING JAYA: Bersih 3.0 today took Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Nazri Abdul Aziz to task for objecting to the planned sit-down protest at Dataran Merdeka on April 28.
The electoral watchdog’s steering committee member Andrew Khoo said that it was not right for Nazri to say that the historic square is “not a gazetted area for peaceful assemblies” under the newly passed Peaceful Assembly Act 2011.
“I am surprised Nazri can say that it is not a place where Bersih 3.0 can be held as Dataran Merdeka is frequently used as a venue for public gatherings. That means it is open to the public. Are you saying it can be used for your public gathering, but not our public gathering? Is our public, not your public?” asked Khoo.
“That’s not how laws should be… laws must fair, neutral, and apply to everyone equally. What’s sauce for the goose must also be sauce for the gander,” said Khoo, who is also a lawyer and Bar Council Human Rights Committee chairman.
Citing the recent celebration of Police Day at Dataran Merdeka, Khoo said: “If Nazri says the square cannot be used for Bersih 3.0, then to be fair, Dataran Merdeka cannot also be used for any other events including Police Day.”
“We should not distinguish between an event organised by an organisation that has the approval of government, and one that does not have the approval of the government.”
He said since the passing of the Peaceful Assembly Act, several peaceful gatherings have been held such as the “Free Anwar 901” rally at the Jalan Duta court complex in support of Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim, the anti-Lynas Himpunan Hijau 2.0 rally, and the Women’s Day “Women the Voice of Change” walk.
“All these events proceeded peacefully, though there were bomb blasts at the court but that had nothing to do with the organisers. These are three major assemblies that went on smoothly without violence. This shows that it is possible for Malaysians to assemble peacefully. And that’s is what Bersih 3.0 is going to be,” Khoo said.
‘No need for permit’
Asked if Bersih 3.0 will apply for police permission to hold the sit-in protest, Khoo said: “There is no [necessity for a] permit; the police know about it [protest]. The announcement was made in the press yesterday; the police are deemed to have been informed.”
However, he said that the organisers will be speaking to the authorities to ensure a trouble-free event.
He added that the police should not be imposing any conditions and even children should be allowed to participate as they “have an equal part to play in any democracy”.
Meanwhile, police have refused to comment on the matter.
“I don’t want to comment yet. It is still early. We are awaiting instructions. I believe the IGP [Inspector- General of Police] will issue a statement shortly,” Kuala Lumpur police chief DCP Mohmad Salleh told FMT.
Mohmad said Bersih 3.0 has yet to make an application to have the gathering, adding: “We’ll see where it goes from there.”
A senior police officer told FMT that the Peaceful Assembly Act is already in force though the areas supposedly gazetted for assemblies have yet to be officially listed and announced.
He said the police have submitted their list of recommended sites but declined to say if these include Dataran Merdeka. Constitutional right
Yesterday, Bar Council president Lim Chee Wee urged the authorities not to deny Bersih 3.0 its constitutional right to a peaceful assembly.
He was also quoted as saying that based on his research, the Peaceful Assembly Act has yet to come into force.
This seems to contradict past police statements stating that the law is already being enforced.
The Peaceful Assembly Act was passed late last year amid widespread protests that the new legislation was more oppressive despite assertions from the government that it was progressive.
The Act states that the home minister may gazette “designated places of assembly” where organisers need not notify authorities in advance of a planned rally.
But the gatherings can be held anywhere outside a 50m radius of a prohibited place as long as police are given 10 days’ advance notice.
The list of prohibited places includes dams, reservoirs, water catchment areas, water treatment plants, electricity generating stations, petrol stations, hospitals, fire stations, airports, railways, land public transport terminals, ports, canals, docks, wharves, piers, bridges, marinas, places of worship and kindergartens and schools.