Legislation Will Undermine Freedom of Assembly in Malaysia

On November 22nd, the Malaysian government announced that it will enact new rules for public demonstrations under the Peaceful Assembly Bill. While the legislation recognizes the fundamental right to freedom of assembly, it will be more restrictive than the current law, since it contains troubling provisions, including a ban on street protests.  Freedom House is concerned these restrictive provisions would undermine citizens’ right to assemble peacefully and freely, and urges the Malaysian government to revise the legislation so it abides by the Malaysian Constitution and conforms to international human rights standards. The Bill will give arbitrary powers to the police, including the authority to shut down demonstrations and arrest participants. Freedom House is also concerned by the hasty drafting process and lack of pubic consultation for the bill, and urges the government to proceed with revisions in a transparent and accountable manner.
 
The right to peaceful assembly is guaranteed under Article 10 of the Federal Constitution as well as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).  The Police Act of 1967, under section 27, recognizes assembly in motion or processions. This past July, Freedom House issued a statement condemning the Malaysian government’s crackdown on the Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections’ (Bersih) demonstration. Bersih— an alliance of civil society organizations –campaigned for electoral reforms, transparency in government, and an end to the rampant corruption that taints Malaysian politics. More than 1,500 people were arrested during the rally, including nine prominent human rights activists and opposition party figures – some of the leaders were subsequently released.
 
For more information on Malaysia, visit:
Freedom in the World 2011: Malaysia
Freedom of the Press 2011: Malaysia
Freedom on the Net 2011: Malaysia