Saturday, September 24, 2011

Drop "Illegal Assembly" Charges

A total of 21 people, including Tony Pua, Member of Parliament for Petaling Jaya Utara, two state assemblymen – Lau Weng San and Ronnie Liu, MBPJ Councillor Tiew Way Keng and a Catholic priest from Church of Divine Mercy – Father Paulino Miranda, were charged in the Sessions Court on 23 January 2009.

They were arrested on Nov 9 last year under Section 27 of the Police Act for allegedly taking part in an illegal assembly. The gathering was a candlelight vigil held at the Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) park in front of the Civic Centre to commemorate the first anniversary of the Bersih march in 2007 and to protest the Internal Security Act (ISA).

In the light of the Malaysia Day pronouncements by the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak last week, we call upon the Attorney-General to heed to spirit of the speech and drop all “illegal assembly” charges against the above individuals.

The Prime Minister said the government will review Section 27 of the Police Act 1967, taking into account the provision in Article 10 of the Federal Constitutions concerning freedom of assembly. He has also announced that the ISA will be repealed.
Hence the participants of the candlelight vigil held peacefully and briefly in an open park – who posed no security threat or inconvenience to the public – should similarly be protected by the spirit of Article 10 of the Federal Constitution, which states that
(a) every citizen has the right to freedom of speech and expression;
(b) all citizens have the right to assemble peaceably and without arms;
(c) all citizens have the right to form associations.
We believe that the decision to drop all charges under Societies Act and Internal Security Act recently against the 30 Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) should be lauded, and the same should apply to all other similar cases, including those arrested for holding candlelight vigils.

The case has taken exactly 33 months to date and is a drain in time and finances for not only the accused, but also for the prosecution and judiciary.

Our lawyers will be writing to the Attorney-General’s Chambers to make an official appeal for the charges to be dropped.

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