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Assembly Bill: BN MPs pushed for changes

 | November 30, 2011

It was the backbenchers' stand and not pressure from civil society groups and opposition MPs which brought about the changes, says Umno's Abdul Rahman Dahlan.

KUALA LUMPUR: Barisan Nasional backbenchers had expressed disatisfaction with certain portions of the Peaceful Assembly Bill and this prompted the government to make the necessary changes.

According to BN Backbenchers’ Club vice-president Abdul Rahman Dahlan, the six proposed amendments passed yesterday were a result of the backbenchers’ stand and not due to pressure from civil society groups or opposition MPs.

Speaking to FMT, the Kota Belud MP said BN MPs were briefed on the Bill last Thursday by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Nazri Abdul Aziz, Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein, Attorney-General Abdul Gani Patail and Deputy Inspector-General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar.

“A lot of people spoke and we raised questions over the duration — whether 30 days was too long (to notify the authorities of an assembly),” he added.

The opposition and civil society groups had also protested against the 30-day period, with some pointing out that even in the military-run state of Myanmar, the notification period was only five days.

Subsequently, the government reduced the notification period to 10 days and the bill was passed together with other minor amendments.

Asked if the backbenchers had consulted any civil society groups, Abdul Rahman replied: “Why should I consult them?”

“If they have a beef with something, they should tell us, they should approach us. None of the civil liberty movements approached us. Only on Monday night I received an email from the Bar Council on their alternative bill,” he said.

The Umno man said he then sent a Tweet message to lawyer Edmund Bon to enquire if any of the Pakatan Rakyat MPs had endorsed the draft bill.

“These guys (the lawyers) are not parliamentarians. MPs must endorse their draft in order for it to be debated in the Dewan. But till this morning (Tuesday morning), they (the lawyers) did not know if it was endorsed,” he added.

Asked what prompted him to raise the issue at the briefing, he said that MPs were not disconnected from the world.

“We read. Don’t think that we are so disconnected with the world. We ask our constituents, we read the papers, we read the blogs and the tweets. (We know that) there have been some requests if the government could actually reduce the notification period.

“We are connected with the people. We understand. But we also have to understand the government’s decision that security is also paramount,” he said.

‘We don’t want credit’

Another backbencher, Hulu Selangor MP P Kamalanathan said the backbenchers were merely doing their work and not trying to claim credit.

“We don’t do work to claim credit, we just do our work,” he told FMT.

The MIC man said he was sure of the backbenchers’ contribution with regard to the government reducing the notification period.

“People can claim credit if they want to, we have no qualms about it. We know why the government made the amendments. The minister has mentioned publically why the amendments were made

“If others such as the opposition want to claim credit, then let it be,” he said.

Nazri had announced on Saturday that the bill would be amended after consultation with the Cabinet members.

Kamalanathan said since the briefing session was just a day before the Cabinet meeting on Friday, it must have had an impact on the Cabinet’s decision.


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