Police have no powers under PAA 2012 to declare Bersih 4.0 rally as ‘illegal’

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Press Release: Police have no powers under PAA 2012 to declare Bersih 4.0 rally as ‘illegal’

I refer to the statements on 20th August by KL Police Chief Datuk Tajuddin Md Isa and Deputy Home Minister Nur Jazlan that the Bersih 4.0 rally is ‘illegal’ and has been ‘banned’.

Under the Peaceful Assembly Act (PAA) 2012, there is no provision giving the police or the government any powers to ban any public assembly or to declare it illegal.

The police only have powers (under section 21 PAA ) to disperse an assembly in certain limited circumstances such as if it has become disorderly or is held near a prohibited place.

Therefore the police themselves are acting in breach of the PAA 2012 and the federal constitution when they declared the Bersih gathering to be ‘illegal’.

In fact, the Bersih 4.0 organisers have gone beyond the requirements of the law when they submitted notice of the gathering to the police. They need not have done so. Pursuant to the decision of the court of appeal in the landmark Nik Nazmi case, there is no longer any need to submit a notice to the police 10 days prior to the gathering. To put it another way, there is no offence committed even if no notice is submitted to police prior to the rally.

The claim by the police that the rally is illegal because the organisers have not obtained permission of the owners of the premises is absurd and without any legal basis. Whilst section 11 of PAA 2012 encourages organisers to get the consent of the owners, there is no offence committed if permission is not obtained.

In any event, the Bersih 4.0 organisers have said that they will only be gathering in the vicinity of Dataran Merdeka, hence there is no need for any consent.

It is disturbing that the various statements coming from the police and Home Ministry appear to be in disregard of the provisions of the PAA 2012 itself, as explained above. The authorities also appear to be unaware that there is no longer any notice requirement subsequent to the Nik Nazmi decision.

The authorities must uphold the law, and not issue statements in blatant contradiction of the law.

The police and Home Ministry must immediately retract their declaration that the Bersih 4.0 gathering is illegal, and do everything in their power to facilitate this important and popular public assembly.

Issued by,
N Surendran,
MP for Padang Serai,
Political Bureau, Keadilan
21 August 2015

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