Link to official publication: PEACEFUL ASSEMBLY ACT 2012
What is the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012?
The Peaceful Assembly Act 2012 regulates public protests. It was drafter four months after the Bersih 2.0 rally and two months after the government announced its intention to amend the Police Act.
The government claims that the Act will allow citizens to organise and participate in assemblies peacefully and without arms under restrictions deemed as necessary in the interest of public order and security. However, the opposition, the Bar Council and civil society have strongly criticised the Act, saying that it can be used as a tool to crackdown on the right to protest and freedom of expression.
Is there a need to give a 10-day notice to the police?
A 10-day notice is required, but it is important to note that the notice is not permission nor permit by the police. Organisers are only required to notify or inform the officer in charge of the police district (OCPD) of an intended assembly. Under the Peaceful Assembly Act, the police have no authority to refuse the assembly.
Under section 14(1), the police are required to respond within 5 days after receiving the notice. The police are to then inform the organiser of the restrictions and conditions imposed under section 15 of the Act. If the police do not respond within 5 days, the assembly may go on as planned.
Failure to comply with the restriction and conditions will result in a fine up to RM10,000.
What are the conditions under section 15 of the Act?
(a) the date, time and duration of assembly
(b) the place of assembly
(c) the manner of the assembly
(d) the conduct of participants during the assembly
(e) the payment of clean-up costs arising out of the holding of the assembly
(f) any inherent environmental factor, cultural or religious sensitivity and historical significance of the place of assembly
(g) the concerns and objections of persons who have interests, or
(h) any other matters the Officer in Charge of a Police District deems necessary or expedient in relation to the assembly.
One can imagine that with the conditions under section 15, the police may easily be manipulated and control the whole nature of the assembly. This section haas yet to be interpreted by the courts.
Does the Peaceful Assembly Act prohibit assemblies at certain places?
The Act bans any assembly in the form of street protests.
It also bars any assembly within 50 meters of prohibited places. the First Schedule provides that petrol stations, hospitals, fire stations, airports, railways, bridges, schools, kindergartens, places of worship, etc are prohibited places.
What powers do the police have under the Peaceful Assembly Act?
Under section 20 of the act, the police have powers to arrest the organiser(s) and the participants of the assembly without a warrant.
Section 20 provides that a police officer may arrest if:
(a) who, during an assembly, refuses or fails to comply with any restrictions and conditions under section 15
(b) who, during an assembly, has in his possession any arms, or
(c) who recruits or brings a child to an assembly other than an assembly specified in the second schedule.
Before making the arrest, section 20(c) requires that the police take necessary measures to ensure voluntary compliance by the organiser or participant.
What to do if you are arrested under Peaceful Assembly Act?
Contacting a lawyer or next-of-kin should be the first order of business. Keep in mind that the police do have the power to deny this rights and prevent you from contacting your family or lawyer for 48 hours.