Episode
December 8, 2011

Malaysia's Peaceful Assembly Act

Malaysians rally against a bill that could hurt freedom of expression and the right to protest.
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In Malaysia, the proposed Peaceful Assembly Act would ban street protests and children younger than 15 from participating in and organising demonstrations. Malaysia’s ruling coalition says the Peaceful Assembly Act was created to balance citizens’ rights to protest and maintain public order. The bill is expected to pass the upper house of parliament this month.

The controversy over the Peaceful Assembly Act comes after Prime Minister Najib Razak pledged in September to embark on a series of democratic reforms. These reforms included increased press freedoms and the repeal of the Internal Security Act, or lSA, which allows for detention without trial or criminal charges.

The Peaceful Assembly Act also appears to be in response to rallies earlier this summer that called for electoral reform and transparency. It may also be a pre-emptive action to curb public protests ahead of next year’s expected elections.

The lower house of the Malaysian Parliament passed the Peaceful Assembly Act Nov 29. It awaits approval by the upper house, the Senate, before taking effect. Analysts expect an easy passage as the Senate is dominated by ruling party members.

Opposition party members walked out of parliament before the Nov 29 vote. They refused to participate because only three of their members were allowed to speak on the issue.

In this episode of The Stream, we discussed the pros and cons of the Peaceful Assembly Act with Pek Koon Heng, director of the ASEAN Studies Center; Lim Chee Wee, president of the Malaysian Bar Council; and Malaysian MP P. Kamalanathan.

What do you think about Malaysia's Peaceful Assembly Act? Send us your thoughts and comments on Facebook or Twitter using hashtag #AJStream.
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