ROSE calls for PAA 2012 to be repealed

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Teo (centre) at the press conference at Summer Mall on Saturday. Also seen are other ROSE members.

KOTA SAMARAHAN: Following the cancellation of ‘Youth and Employment in Sarawak: Opportunity or Challenge” forum scheduled on Saturday night, the forum’s organisers Rise of Sarawak Efforts (ROSE) are calling for the Peaceful Assembly Act (PAA) 2012 to be repealed.

ROSE chairperson Ann Teo also wanted the definition of ‘public place’ in the PAA 2012 to be clear as presently under the Act it means (a) a road; (b) a place open to or used by the public as of right; or (c) a place for the time being open to or used by the public, whether or not – (I) the place is ordinarily open to or used by the public; (II) by the express or implied consent of the owner or occupier; or (III) on payment of money, which according to her is very broad and open to selective interpretation.

Teo also questioned if organisers of various public events held in a mall from now on would also be required to apply for a police permit as under PAA 2012, there is no requirement to obtain a police permit, unlike Section 27 of the Police Act, which has been repealed and replaced with the PAA.

“Under Section 27 of the Police Act, the organiser of an assembly must first obtain a permit from the police district before holding an assembly. If an assembly is held without a permit, it is deemed unlawful and anyone attending or participating in the assembly would commit an offence because there is Section 9 (1) of the PAA 2012, in which the organiser of an assembly must give notice to the officer-in-charge of a police district at least 10 days before the assembly,” she pointed out at a press conference held at the Summer Mall here on Saturday.

Thus, ROSE is calling for the PAA to be repealed to enable the people’s constitutional rights to be recognised including rights to peaceful assembly, freedom of expression and freedom of association.

Teo also commented that the definition of ‘public space’ under the PAA 2012 is actually curbing the constitutional rights of citizens, especially non-governmental organisations like ROSE that play an important role in society, for freedom of assembly and expression for the common good.

Commenting on the cancelled forum, Teo said they did not apply for a police permit because they were of the impression that it was not necessary for the forum considering that it would be held indoors and in a shopping mall, which they thought was a ‘public place’.

“For us, the objective of the forum was to enable free and open discourse on issues affecting Sarawakians as it will contribute towards sharing of valuable information, engagement between public especially youths and policy makers and experts,” she said.

Teo also informed that ROSE had to pay rental for the use of the space at the mall for the event and asked if a mall is defined as a ‘public place’.

Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB) information chief Dato Idris Buang and Malaysian Trade Unions Congress (MTUC) secretary Andrew Lo were scheduled to appear as panels for the forum to share their views on the challenges and issues plaguing youths and job-seekers in Sarawak.

Both of them have expressed their disappointment over the cancellation of the forum, according to Teo.

“The forum will provide them the opportunity to interact with the people especially youths and address what need to be done by the respective parties and stakeholders. All that unfortunately did not happen due to the interpretation of what is a ‘public space’ according to the PAA,” she added.

Teo, however, assured that a new date and venue for the forum will be announced in due course and should the forum be held it would most definitely be held in Kota Samarahan as many institutions of higher learning are located there such as Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM), Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas) and others.