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Monday, September 30, 2013

Adamant activists 'force' dep minister to accept memo


The refusal of 16 activists to budge from the Parliament lobby paid off today when the deputy home minister relented and accepted their memorandum protesting proposed amendments to the Prevention of Crime Act 1959.

NONEDeputy Home Minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar(wearing red tie), flanked by PKR's Gombak MP Azmin Ali, met the group less than 30 minutes after the sit-in commenced in the lobby.

He cordially thanked them for their memorandum calling for the withdrawal of the proposals, which had been tabled for the first reading last week.

Wan Junaidi also agreed to a follow-up meeting and a dialogue on the Amendment Bill which critics say will reintroduce detention without trial.

Asked if the Bill would still be tabled for its second reading in the Dewan Rakyat tomorrow, Wan Junaidi said: "I cannot comment as the decision is not mine alone. I have not read the memorandum."

Meeting the group earlier, Mohamad Sade Mohamad Amin, the Home Ministry’s parliamentary and cabinet secretary had said that neither the minister nor his deputy would meet the protesters.

NONETold by the activists that they are sending the memorandum on behalf of the people, the home minister's press secretary Norzihan Thambi, who was present, retorted: "The Bill is for the rakyat too.”

The absence of the minister and his deputy prompted the group to stage the sit-in, which the Parliament staff allowed on two conditions:
  • That Suaram coordinator Syurki Ab Razab removes a headband which reads: 'ISA Akta Zalim' (ISA is a cruel Act); and
  • That the activists sit silently while Parliament staff negotiated with the deputy minister to meet them.
Suaram coordinator Syukri Ab Razab was almost manhandled by a guard when the activists decided to sit cross-legged in front of the national crest.

Protesting this, lawyers Fadiah Nadwa Fikri and New Sin Yew defiantly said: "Parliament is a democratic space. This is the people's space."    

‘Room for abuse’

The activists included Bersih co-chairperson Ambiga Sreenevasan, Gerakan Anti-ISA chairperson Syed Ibrahim Syed Noh, Suaram executive director E Nalini and Centre for Independent Journalism executive officer Masjaliza Hamzah.

Other notable participants were human rights lawyer Edmund Bon and Malaysian Indians Progressive Asscociation secretary general S Barathidasan.

NONEThey were among 30 protestors who had marched less than a kilometre from the Kuala Lumpur Lake Gardens where they had gathered, but were stopped in front of the Parliament compound by about 30 police personnel.

Dubbing the Amendment Bill the 'Internal Security Act 2.0', the activists claimed that the proposals are unconstitutional as these restrict free movement, freedom of expression and the freedom to assemble, organise and own property.

"The preamble of the Bill is too wide and opens room for abuse, as was done when the ISA was in force," their memorandum reads.

"While Section 19A of the Bill appears to allow judicial review, we expect that the court will read Section 19A together with Section 15A which states that High Court review is only limited to procedural matters and not matters of merit."

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