PETALING JAYA: A rights group has called for the repeal of the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012 after the police summoned several people who attended a women’s rally for questioning on Monday.
Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture (Madpet) described the Act as “draconian” and said it deters the “real” right to assemble peacefully.
Madpet spokesman Charles Hector said it made no sense for the police to play the role of “permission giver” for the exercise of the fundamental right to assemble.
“It simply gives the police too much power, even to impose conditions and restrictions. Even after giving approval, the police can suddenly change their mind and impose other restrictions,” he said in a statement today.
He also said the requirement of a five-day notice to the police before an assembly can be held was onerous and prevented the immediate right to peacefully assemble.
“A protest more than five days later is simply too late, and will not likely get much public support or media attention,” he said.
Hector also said the Act prevented those below 21 to gather peacefully even though those aged 18 and above were allowed to vote under the Undi18 initiative.
He said that before the Act was enacted, “things were generally better” as people were seldom investigated or charged with gathering peacefully even though it was considered a crime for more than three or five people to assemble.
The exception was when the 1998 Reformasi protests took place, when hundreds were arrested and charged, he said.
The group also called for the repeal of Section 141 of the Penal Code, which defines an assembly of five or more persons as an “unlawful assembly” if it, among others, causes mischief or criminal trespass or other offences.
It also called for the police to stop “harassing” participants of the Women’s March Malaysia rally, which took place on Sunday.
On Sunday, the police opened an investigation paper in connection with the rally, saying it did not comply with the provisions of the law.