Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Don’t arrest protesters, Zuraida says

She says wholly peaceful public assemblies should not be subjected to police investigations.

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Housing and Local Government Minister Zuraida Kamaruddin today voiced concern over an ongoing police investigation into a recent protest over the delay in lowering the voting age from 21 to 18, calling for a review of the Peaceful Assembly Act to better facilitate gatherings of a non-violent nature.

“I do understand that in this case the police in investigating the protest were carrying out their duties under the provisions of the Peaceful Assembly Act.

“That law needs to be reviewed to better facilitate peaceful public assemblies,” she said in a statement today. “I do not believe it is their intention to oppress anyone.”

A group of some 100 protesters had marched to the Parliament building last week where they sat for 18 minutes in front of the entrance to protest the delay in implementing the lower voting age, also known as Undi 18.

Undi 18, which was passed in Parliament in July 2019, was originally expected to take effect in July this year. However, the Election Commission (EC) recently said that any move to lower the voting age would likely be implemented only after Sept 1, 2022.

EC chairman Abdul Ghani Salleh said that while preparations are on track, current developments and the fact that the country remains under movement restrictions due to Covid-19 had affected its plans.

This sparked a backlash from members of the public as well as lawmakers and ministers including Khairy Jamaluddin and Saifuddin Abdullah.

Zuraida expressed confidence that the EC was doing “everything possible” to ensure that Undi 18 is implemented as soon as possible.

“This government is categorically and unreservedly in support of Undi 18,” she added.

However, she said freedom of assembly as enshrined in the Federal Constitution must be upheld.

“Wholly peaceful public assemblies should not be subjected to any police investigation; they should be facilitated by the police, while taking into account legitimate public order concerns.

“The right of the protesters to peacefully gather and express their views must be defended, provided Covid-19 SOPs are adhered to,” she said, adding that she would raise the matter with the Cabinet.

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