KUALA LUMPUR: The police have advised the people to stay clear of unlawful gatherings, even as spectators.
Federal Reserve Unit (FRU) commander Datuk Abdul Hamid Mohd Ali said they should move away from a gathering immediately if there were signs of the assembly getting out of hand.
When there is a commotion or chaos, the police would not be able to differentiate between participants of a gathering and spectators when they have to take drastic action such as firing tear gas to break up the crowd, he told Bernama.
Abdul Hamid said the term ‘illegal gathering’ was no longer used after the Peaceful Assembly Act came into force on April 23, 2012, replacing Section 27 of the Police Act.
The Peaceful Assembly Act allowed the people to hold gatherings peacefully after notifying the police 10 days prior to the event instead of having to apply for a police permit as was the case under Section 27 of the Police Act.
Abdul Hamid said that under the Peaceful Assembly Act, the police were only observers and facilitators.
“Nevertheless, the police can act by applying the Criminal Procedure Code and Penal Code against participants of any gathering who break the law,” he said.
He said that after the police received notification of the gathering, they would advise the organisers to change the location if it was felt that holding the event there could disrupt public order and the daily routine of the people in the locality.
Abdul Hamid said the law was not intended to cause hardship to the people but to maintain public order and safeguard the rights of the people when a group wanted to use its right to gather peacefully.
“There will be no problem and chaos so long as the participants of the gathering do not break any law and the assembly ends peacefully,” he said.
Abdul Hamid said the police had identified several factors which drove an individual to take part in unlawful gatherings, one of which was being unable to fathom what was meant by freedom and the right to assemble.
“They do not understand that in exercising their right to assemble they cannot interfere with the rights of others, such as the people in the locality and passers-by,” he said.
Abdul Hamid said those who wanted to emulate the West in clamouring for freedom should realise that the scenario in Malaysia was different and that there were limits to their rights so as to avert chaos.
“Malaysia is a democratic country, of course, but we have laws just like in the western countries to safeguard harmony,” he said. — Bernama