Participation in the conduct of public affairs

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Freedom of Assembly

The Commission has observed that the Government has not been very forthcoming in promoting the right to freedom of peaceful assemblies, on the pretext of maintaining public order and security. To date, the Commission has carried out seven public inquiries into alleged violations of citizens being denied their right to freedom of assembly.

An example of limitations imposed on the right to participation in Malaysia, especially on freedom of assembly, is the Bersih Public Assemblies, which were organised by the Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (BERSIH) in 2011, advocating for the Election Commission of Malaysia (EC) to ensure free and fair elections in Malaysia. Police efforts to shut down the assembly were carried out before and during the demonstration, which led to protestors being arrested, doused with tear gas and chemical-laced water and also subjected to the use of excessive force by the police. Based on complaints received, the Commission conducted a public inquiry and subpoenaed approximately 50 witnesses, comprising members of the public, media and police personnel to testify before the Commission.

The general findings concluded from the public inquiries, were that the authorities had not adhered to standard operating procedures, used excessive force in apprehending protestors, wrongfully arrested media personnel as well individuals who were observers of the public assembly and violated the right to assembly of the general public.

As of now, several positive developments have been made with regard to protecting the right to freedom of assembly, whereby in November 2011, the Government tabled and passed the Peaceful Assembly Act, which only requires organisers to notify the police within 10 days before the date of the assembly, instead of having to apply for police permits, which was mandatory previously. In this regard, the Commission has also taken note of the improvements made by all parties, including the police, with regard to recent demonstrations being peacefully carried out and successfully managed, such as the “Himpunan Kebangkitan Rakyat” (People's Uprising Rally) that was held at Merdeka Stadium in Kuala Lumpur on 12 January 2013 and also the “May Day Anti-GST” rally in Kuala Lumpur on 1 May 2014.

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