Sunday, November 27, 2011

Explain ban on gathering at houses of worship, Abim tells PM

Explain ban on gathering at houses of worship, Abim tells PM
By G Manimaran
November 27, 2011

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 27 — The Malaysian Islamic Youth Movement (Abim) today urged Datuk Seri Najib Razak to explain his rationale behind banning peaceful assemblies at houses of worship under his administration’s newly proposed law.

Voicing its disapproval of the Peaceful Assembly Bill, scheduled to be debated in Parliament on Tuesday, the Muslim group said the prime minister must explain the clause in order to avoid any futures misunderstandings.

Under the proposed Bill, houses of worship and other premises, such as schools and petrol stations, have been classified as prohibited zones. Those found participating in a rally within a 50m-radius of these premises would be liable to fines of up to RM10,000.

“Abim views such provisions as contrary to Article 10 of the Federal Constitution which guarantees citizens the right to assemble,” Abim president Abdul Manan said today.

He said the group also rejected other provisions in the Bill, which it claimed grants unbridled powers to the police to force unnecessary requirements on assembly organisers and make arbitrary arrests.

“Abim fears through those provisions, it may be open to abuse of power or discretion due to the absence of clear provisions to control and limit the power of the police in controlling and dispersing a rally,” Abdul Manan said, adding the bill was implemented deliberately to deny the rights of Malaysians.

He stressed that the freedom to assemble is a fundamental right of all Malaysians and that the government must show its commitment full-heartedly.

“Adequate space should be given to difference of opinion and criticisms. Indeed, any feedback from civil society institutions should not be perceived negatively,” Abdul Manan explained, adding that restrictions would only foster negative perceptions of the government.

“I fear if the Peaceful Assembly Bill 2011 is passed, it will only bring about negative implications to the government-people relationship as well as the democratic well-being of the country.”

It was reported today that the government will make seven changes to the Peaceful Assembly Bill including reducing the advance notice to be given to the OCPD by anyone organising a public assembly to 10 days instead of the proposed 30 days.

Minister in Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz said the Bill is to be tabled for second reading on Tuesday.

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