Rights group Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) today slammed the authorities over an investigation into a gathering to show support for Perikatan Nasional (PN) chairman Muhyiddin Yassin, saying it exposes the "rhetoric" of government leaders over the years on the holding of peaceful assemblies.
"The police probe is oppressive, unnecessary and unbecoming of any government or leader that claims to be 'reformist'. The gathering at MACC was peaceful," LFL director Zaid Malek said.
"Pakatan Harapan (PH), which now forms the backbone of the federal government, has consistently over the years supported the public’s right to freedom of assembly without police harassment. Was it all mere rhetoric?"
He called for an immediate halt to all police probes, adding that Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim must publicly declare there will be no "further crackdown on any peaceful rallies or assemblies in the future".
Police have said they will call in political leaders and those behind the gathering outside the MACC headquarters in Putrajaya, where Muhyiddin was questioned for more than eight hours a day before he was slapped with corruption charges on Friday.
LFL said the gathering was protected under Article 10(1)(b) of the Federal Constitution for all Malaysians "irrespective of political alignment".
"Public assemblies can occur on the spur of the moment as an immediate response to an event, exactly as what occurred in the case of the gathering by those in support of Muhyiddin Yassin at the MACC headquarters," it said, adding that the Peaceful Assembly Act which came into force during the Barisan Nasional administration does not fulfil the constitutional guarantee.
"This was always the position taken by PH when it was in the opposition. PH maintained that it is a sacred right protected under our constitution that must not be curtailed by the PAA.
"It would be obvious hypocrisy and double standards for a PH-led government to now preside over a crackdown on peaceful public assemblies held by the current opposition."