Rights lawyers have warned the government and police not to intimidate the organisers of a rally on Malaysia Day to protest the attorney-general's controversial decision to halt the corruption trial of Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.
Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) also reminded the government against invoking the Peaceful Assembly Act (PAA), a law used by previous Barisan Nasional governments against protesters that critics say is unconstitutional.
"Ministers and MPs from Pakatan Harapan (PH) are well aware of the repressive nature of the PAA, as they were similarly harassed and persecuted for purported violations of the PAA when they organised rallies while they were in opposition. It is for this reason that PH previously called for the abolition of the PAA.
"But now the persecuted PH appears to have turned persecutor, turning the same law they once criticised against the current opposition," said LFL director Zaid Malek.
Yesterday, deputy police chief Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay warned of action against the organisers of the protest planned by Perikatan Nasional on Sept 16, saying they must comply with PAA requirements.
He said that according to Section 9(1) of the PAA, any party intending to hold a rally must apply for a permit five days in advance.
When asked about rallies held without the necessary applications, he said that action would be taken according to the existing laws.
Zaid said Ayob's statement and similar remarks by some PH leaders left "no doubt" that the government and police were preparing to take action.
"The pre-rally threats and public warnings to those planning the rally are the same tactics once used by the old BN governments against Pakatan Rakyat and later PH," he said.
"PH and its leaders are themselves becoming what they once derided as oppressive and high-handed."
He also described it as an irony that the government led by Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim was preparing to clamp down on peaceful assemblies.
"Reformasi was born in the streets and thrived by defying the Police Act and PAA to hold anti-government rallies," he said, referring to Anwar's trademark movement.