Persatuan Promosi Hak Asasi Manusia ::
Society for the Promotion of Human Rights
Thursday, 24 November 2016
Comment by Prof Shad Faruqi on Bersih5 & Use of SOSMA
The Bersih 5 rally triggered a debate about citizens’ rights and police powers under the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012. The rally aroused grave fears of strife in the streets.
Fortunately, the demonstrators acted with restraint. The Kuala Lumpur police force conducted itself with professionalism and kept the antagonists apart. Our system of democracy and our political maturity were tested. We scored well and the nation is better for it.
However, the initial police description of the Bersih 5 rally as illegal has important implications for the right to assembly as enshrined in Article 10 and the Peaceful Assembly Act. Likewise, the attempt by some private groups to obtain an injunction against the rally organisers is constitutionally significant.
Justice Nanthan Bala held that the police are legally bound by Section 18 of the Peaceful Assembly Act to redirect any counter-rallies if they know that clashes are imminent.
He also ruled that no private citizen or groups should use the court to prevent any organisations from exercising their constitutional right to assemble. These are useful guidelines for the future.
Grave reservations have been raised about the use of the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 against Maria Chin Abdullah, the Bersih organiser who has been detained for 28 days. Her habeas corpus application to challenge the validity of her detention is pending in the courts.