Datuk Yeo Yang Poh, the former chairman of the Bar Council of Malaysia has expressed his opinion that the government should start considering recognizing public assemblies and the need to hold them. This is because it deals with the freedom of expression and other human fundamental rights.
He said that public assemblies are in fact compatible with public order and if they are not covered in these areas, then they are not part of the democracy system. This is done by changing the law which have recently been done by the passing of the Peaceful Assembly Act although some have criticized it.
Passing the change in law is one thing, changing the mindset is another because unless that is done, the law is practically helpless in many ways. Yeo said that the ball starts with the government who should stop perceiving peaceful assemblies as ‘enemies of the state’. On top of that, there are also those who view those involved in these assemblies as troublemakers because they simply are not.
In fact, it should be viewed that members of peaceful assemblies are Malaysian citizens who like everyone else have something to say. The problem is that they usually cannot find a place to do so and to view their voices on certain issues.
Meanwhile, Kedah Gerakan Youth chief Tan Keng Liang added that there should be a provision in the new Peaceful Assembly Act that will hold those who used peaceful assemblies for their own personal reasons and then turning them into violent incidents.
Calling it a hijacking situation, he said that such acts are as bad as terrorist acts where it has happened before, particularly during the Bersih demonstrations where they so-called ‘hijackers’ have given Bersih a bad name although they were demonstrating for a good cause. He added that peaceful assemblies should not be allowed to be held on streets.