Citizens have a right to assemble, says Bar on anti-ICERD rally

The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination has sparked strong objection from some quarters.

PETALING JAYA: The Malaysian Bar has backed the holding of a rally to “celebrate” Putrajaya’s decision not to ratify an international treaty as peaceful gatherings are provided for in the Federal Constitution.

Bar president George Varughese said the law gave citizens the right to assemble peacefully and express themselves in a responsible manner.

“However, they must observe all rules and regulations as laid down in the Peaceful Assembly Act,” he added in response to whether the Bar would send lawyers to observe the gathering.

The rally is being organised by Muafakat (Pertubuhan Muafakat Sejahtera Masyarakat Malaysia), Ummah (Gerakan Pembela Ummah) and Daulat (Persatuan Bekas Angkatan Tentera Tidak Berpencen Malaysia).

PAS and Umno, both major Malay-Muslim opposition parties, have promised to mobilise 500,000 members for the event.

Varughese said the Bar had not received an invitation from the organisers to place its members as independent observers at strategic locations during the rally planned for Saturday.

“They did not invite us to the event; as such, we are staying away,” he told FMT.

The Bar had, in the past, sent several teams of lawyers to ensure that all parties observed the law during Bersih-held rallies to demand free and fair elections.

“The organisers then wrote and gave us adequate notice to send observers. We briefed our members on the do’s and don’ts in carrying out their duties,” he said.

He added that the Bar had prepared independent reports on those gatherings which were also referred to by the authorities.

Umno and PAS have assured the authorities and the public that the rally will be peaceful.

Pasir Salak MP Tajuddin Abdul Rahman, who is Umno’s coordinator for the event, said the rally was not intended to provoke anyone.

PAS deputy president Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Mat meanwhile said they would not compromise on any participant who tried to create chaos during the event.

However, PKR president Anwar Ibrahim had urged Umno and PAS leaders to cancel the rally as the government had decided not to ratify the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD).

Home Minister Muhyiddin Yassin also advised the organisers to hold their event in a mosque where special prayers could be held peacefully.

The Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) has given organisers the green light for the anti-ICERD “thanksgiving” rally, to be held in the heart of the city.

However, DBKL will only allow the organisers to use the area in front of the Sultan Abdul Samad building in Jalan Raja for the rally, which is scheduled to be held from 2pm to 6pm.