In deciding that the government cannot use the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012 (PAA) to institute claims for the damage during a Bersih rally, it showed that it is the duty of the state to safeguard those who assemble peacefully and to prevent those who are out to cause trouble, says a human rights lawyer.
Lawyers for Liberty director Eric Paulsen further says that the Court of Appeal decision reaffirms the people ‘s right to assemble peacefully in accordance with the constitution.
The Court of Appeal in a landmark decision today affirmed that the government and police have no right to institute a claim under the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012, following damages allegedly incurred in the 2012 Bersih 3 rally.
In affirming the Kuala Lumpur High Court decision, the three-member bench dismissed the appeal by the police and government against the Bersih steering committee members, including its then chairperson Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan.
In a unanimous decision, Justice Rohana Yusof said the PAA cannot be used to institute a claim, reported Malaysiakini.
Paulsen pointed out that the civil suit brought by the government is clearly frivolous and designed to harass protest organisers.
“We are pleased that the court found in favour of rights and liberty instead of suppression and restrictions. Protests in Malaysia are by and large peaceful.
“Civil liberties belong to all Malaysians irrespective of their political affiliation and I think today’s decision has sent a clear message to the authorities,” says Paulsen.
The High Court ruled that while the PAA is constitutional, had dismissed the claim by the government last year.
The government however, filed an appeal later.
The Bersih 4 rally last year on August 30 was one of the biggest in the Bersih series, in a protest for electoral reforms and a clean government. The police and the Kuala Lumpur City Council in the aftermath had alleged that the hundreds of thousands of rallygoers disrupted the landscape and damaged the area around Dataran Merdeka where they gathered. The square was being prepared for the National Day rally then.
The police had declared the rally as being illegal.
The Heat Malaysia Online