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Police powerless under PAA to stop Zahid DNAA rally, lawyers say

Lawyers for Liberty says the Peaceful Assembly Act only requires organisers to inform the police of the planned gathering.

Staff Writers
3 minute read
A police patrol car makes the rounds in this file picture taken in Jalan Semarak, Kuala Lumpur.
A police patrol car makes the rounds in this file picture taken in Jalan Semarak, Kuala Lumpur.

Lawyers group Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) today hit out at the police's statement that the application for the "Save Malaysia" demonstration in Kuala Lumpur tomorrow had been rejected, saying there is no such requirement under the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012 (PAA).

LFL director Zaid Malek said the remark by Bukit Aman Criminal Investigation Department chief Mohd Shuhaily Mohd Zain showed that the police were either ignorant or misconstruing the law.

"The requirement states that the police must only be notified of the assembly. Subsequent to the receipt of the notice, the police may then impose restrictions and conditions on the rally, but there is no power for them under the act to outright deny anyone the right to assemble," he said.

Shuhaily said at a press conference yesterday that the application for the rally was rejected as the organisers had left out "certain details", including the location and names of the organisers themselves.

"We cannot accept the notice because the information provided is incomplete, so the police cannot accept it," he said.

The demonstration was organised by Perikatan Nasional to protest the attorney-general's controversial decision to halt the corruption trial of Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.

Zahid, the Umno president and Barisan Nasional chairman, had faced 12 counts of criminal breach of trust, eight of corruption, and 27 of money laundering involving tens of millions of ringgit belonging to Yayasan Akalbudi.

He was given a discharge not amounting to an acquittal or DNAA on Sept 4 after deputy public prosecutor Mohd Dusuki Mokhtar informed the judge of the request by the Attorney-General's Chambers to discontinue all proceedings against him.

Electoral watchdog Bersih also previously said that the PAA only required rally organisers to notify the authorities and "not apply for permits or approval like in the old days".

Zaid said Shuhaily's response showed that the police had in fact been notified of the upcoming assembly and that the objections were only over the particulars in the notice.

"Reading between the lines, we can infer that the notice was given five days before the upcoming rally, as it was not cited as one of the reasons for the impropriety of the notice alleged by the police," he said.

"The OCPD (officer in charge of the police district) would thus have ample time to clarify with the organisers the details of the assembly should they wish for the specifics to be clarified, as they are empowered to do.

"Failure to do so is on them, and the police cannot now turn around and say that the organisers are in breach of the requirements of the PAA, and thus the notice is 'disallowed' by way of a press conference."

He also noted that Section 14(1) of the PAA required the OCPD to respond to the notification within three days if any restrictions or conditions were to be imposed on the gathering.

"Outside of the statement by the CID chief, there has been no mention that there was any such reply imposing any restrictions and conditions on the rally," he said.

"As such, the protest should be allowed to go on unimpeded."

In his statement, Zaid also said that the requirement for notification under the PAA did not supersede the right to peaceful assembly under Article 10(1)(b) of the Federal Constitution.

"Any harassment or warnings by the police to ordinary participants of the rally would be unconstitutional and illegal," he said.

Reminding Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim and other Pakatan Harapan leaders of the "countless street rallies" they had held during their time in the opposition, he urged them to uphold the right to peaceful assembly now that they were in power.

"To do otherwise would be hypocrisy of the highest order."