`Malaysia to alter planned public gathering law`

The proposed legislation is part of Malaysian Prime Minister`s reforms to allow for increased civil liberties.

Kuala Lumpur: Malaysia will ease the provisions of a proposed law setting down rules for public assemblies, a newspaper reported on Sunday, after an outcry that the new legislation was oppressive.

The government had announced plans last week to allow citizens to hold peaceful public gatherings as part of a move toward political reform. But organisers were obliged to give police 30 days` notice instead of applying for a permit as stipulated under present law.

The proposed Peaceful Assembly Bill bans street protests, and the planned law drew criticism from lawyers and rights groups who said it was more repressive than Myanmar, only just emerging from decades of military rule, where rally organisers are required to give a 5-day notice.

The Star newspaper on Sunday quoted Law Minister Nazri Aziz as saying the cabinet had held discussions and agreed that the 30-day notification period was too long.

"So the period of notice has been reduced to 10 days," he was quoted as saying.

The bill would also be changed to require police to notify assembly organisers of their decision within 24 hours instead of 48 hours. Organisers would have 48 hours to appeal against any rejection, instead of the currently stipulated period of five days.

The proposed legislation is part of Prime Minister Najib Razak`s reforms to allow for increased civil liberties after a rare street protest in July highlighted public discontent with the government.

In September, Najib repealed two controversial security laws and lifted licensing curbs on the media in a move to bolster his flagging popularity ahead of likely polls early next year.

Bureau Report

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