Malaysia considers easing restrictions on public gatherings

Last Updated: Thursday, August 20, 2009 - 13:28

Kuala Lumpur: Malaysia is mulling easing of existing restrictions on public gatherings, including those for political purposes, to allow people to assemble peacefully without police permits.
Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said that Section 27 of the Police Act would be reviewed to "recognise the right of the public to gather peacefully".

Under the section an assembly of more than five persons is not considered legal and a prior permission or permit is required from the police before such a gathering can be held.

Public gatherings held at specific places, will soon be gazetted, Hussein said.

The Najib Razak government, which assumed office in April, may also consider shortening the detention period under the controversial Internal Security Act (ISA), which allows 60 days of detention without trial, Hussein said yesterday after a committee meeting to review several acts under his purview.

Hussein had several months ago promised to review acts under the purview of his Ministry that were deemed "archaic".

"We have been hearing a lot of debate on the issuance of permits to gather. Thus far, the police had allowed gatherings that do not pose threats. So, we might as well allow for it this away, although it is to be held at suitable areas. At the end of the day, it is about national security and stability," he was quoted as saying by New Straits Times.

The meeting, attended by Attorney-General Gani Patail and Inspector-General of Police Musa Hassan, also mulled over possible changes to the ISA.

Under ISA, a person can be detained for up to 60 days without trial following which the home minister can authorise detention for another two years.

Hussein made it clear that the government had no intention to abolish the legislation but would incorporate into it an "effective system of checks and balances," the paper said.

Noting that the government aimed to remove the false perception that the ISA had been used as a political tool, he said: "But I must stress that when it comes to national interest, there will be no compromise".

Changes to the laws could be expected in December, it said.

Other acts that are likely to be amended are the Multimedia and Communications Act, the Restrictive Residence Ordinance and Public Security Act.

The government, he said, was not in the business of filtering and censoring the Internet but would go all out to ensure that the security and stability of the country were protected.

Bureau Report

First Published: Thursday, August 20, 2009 - 13:28

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