Thaipusam, Street Demonstration and Peaceful Assembly Act

June 22nd, 2012 by poobalan | View blog reactions Leave a reply »
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MP Kubang Kerian YB Salahuddin (PAS) during a debate on the Public Assembly bill with Deputy Higher Education Minister YB Saifuddin (shown live on Astro Awani.  Caveat: I DID NOT watch it),  mentioned about Thaipusam (along with Maulidur Rasul festival) as example of procession or demonstrasi jalanan. He mentioned perarakan Thaipusam and also said “secara separa sedar” (semi conscious” and “walaupun ada Kavadi” (even though got Kavadis), and also tanpa perlu gas pemedih mata (without need of tear gas). The clip below extracted the part about Thaipusam statements.

These statements were picked up by YB Kamalanathan and blogged at his website:

http://pkamalanathan.blogspot.com/2012/06/my-letter-to-yb-kubang-kerian-with.html

 

 

I think saying that the participants are semi conscious is not appropriate and lacks sensitivity. In fact its a bad example as in our social climate, we can easily misunderstand and get angry. Most of the devotees walking along the chariot or at Batu Caves are perfectly conscious!  He should apologise for this wrong statement, possibly due to his ignorance. Next time invite him to join Thaipusam festival as observer to see how things are. Anyway, this coming from PAS is expected. They aren’t really into understanding all faiths.

The YB tried to justify and explain, but I think he should just apologise and move on:

“The point that I was making was not about religion.

“I was talking about Article 10 of the Federal Constitution. I highlighted Thaipusam to make a point about how Malaysians throughout the years, even before independence have gathered and organised themselves in large numbers.

“This was part of a list of other examples that I used to put my point across,” he said.

The Kubang Kerian MP stressed that he had no intention to insult the religious event which is a major Hindu celebration here.

Salahuddin, who met with Kamalanathan, to explain his comments on the matter said that to drive his point across, he used the examples of the gathering against the Malayan Union led by Onn Jaafar (1946), the Perarakan Kerandah 152 (2009) which demanded for the importance of the Malay language, Thaipusam and Maulidur Rasul celebrations to commemorate the prophet’s birthday.

“I did not mean to insult any religion. Why then did I bring up the example of Maulidur Rasul?” he asked.

Kamalanathan, who is the Hulu Selangor MP, took Salahuddin to task yesterday for his comments on Tuesday during a debate entitled “Street demonstrations: Does it build or destroy democracy?” organised by Malay daily, Sinar Harian.

Salahuddin reportedly said that thousands of Hindus gathered during Thaipusam peacefully without the intervention of the authorities.

The PAS leader was also alleged to have said that some Hindus carrying kavadi were semi-conscious and yet they do not need tear gas to keep the situation calm.

Calling Salahuddin “naive”, Kamanathan said his comments were both “insulting and hurting” to the Hindus.

“Belittling the practices of another religion and calling the devotees semi-conscious street demonstrators show lack of understanding and respect for the Hindu devotees,” he added.

‘Just stating facts’

Salahuddin, however, stressed that he was not insulting but merely stating facts about how the public could organise themselves.

“It was only to show that the public is capable of organising themselves. We have the devotees who are semi-conscious but still controllable,” he said.

“Then I also mentioned the large crowds that march during the Maulidur Rasul. You don’t need to use tear-gas to control the crowd.

“That is the point I was making that as long as excessive force is not used, the gatherings have always been peaceful,” he added.

Note: YB Kamalanathan forgot to mention about the Maulidur Rasul part on his blog. In spirit of 1Malaysia, he should also stand up for fellow Muslims and demand apology from the YB for insulting/desecrating/slighting/hurting their feelings.

 Now, the part about Thaipusam being street protest or street demonstration (demonstrasi jalanan).

Let’s look at the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012 (refer source pdf file at: http://www.federalgazette.agc.gov.my/outputaktap/20120209_736_BI_JW001759%20Act%20736%20(BI).pdf or http://www.parlimen.gov.my/files/billindex/pdf/2011/DR422011E.pdf

Under Para 3:

  • “assembly” means an intentional and temporary assembly of a number of persons in a public place, whether or not the assembly is at a particular place or moving;
  • “counter assembly” means an assembly organized to convey disagreement with the purpose for which another assembly is organized, and held at the same time, date and place or approximately at the same time, date and place as the other assembly;
  • “simultaneous assemblies” means two or more assemblies to be held at the same time, date and place, but which have no relationship to each other;
  • “participant” means a person intentionally or voluntarily present for the purpose of an assembly;
  • “street protest” means an open air assembly which begins with a meeting at a specified place and consists of walking in a mass march or rally for the purpose of objecting to or advancing a particular cause or causes;
  • “prohibited places” means— (a) the protected areas and protected places declared under the Protected Areas and Protected Places Act 1959 [Act 298]; and (b) the places as may be specified in the First Schedule;

These are the locations specified in First Schedule:

  • Dams, reservoirs and water catchment areas
  • Water treatment plants
  • Electricity generating stations
  • Petrol stations
  • Hospitals
  • Fire stations
  • Airports
  • Railways
  • Land public transport terminals
  • Ports, canals, docks, wharves, piers, bridges and marinas
  • Places of worship
  • Kindergartens and schools

And this is the Third Schedule:

ASSEMBLIES FOR WHICH NOTIFICATION IS NOT REQUIRED

  • Religious assemblies
  • Funeral processions
  • Wedding receptions
  • Open houses during festivities
  • Family gatherings
  • Family day held by an employer for the benefit of his employees and their
  • families
  • General meetings of societies or associations

Para 11:  Consent of owner or occupier of place of assembly

11. The organizer of an assembly, other than a religious assembly or a funeral procession or an assembly held at a designated place of assembly, shall obtain the consent of the owner or occupier of the place of assembly for it to be used for the purpose of the assembly.

Reading the above extracts from the Act, some questions arise:

1. What is the difference between assembly and street protest? Street protests is defined to be an assembly that is “open air” and for purpose of a cause (for or against).  Assembly can be stationary or moving, while street protest involves marching (moving la..).  So, if its (i) indoor or (ii) assemble for no reason or (iii) assemble and don’t move, its assembly. Quite ridiculous. Even people want to assemble to lepak also got reason or cause – melepak.

2. Note the phrase “street protest”. If you take basically any event involving thousands of people, it will fall into the “street protest” category. The definition doesn’t mention that “not including religious activities”. Example, gathering of million youths at certain location, people marching during uniformed bodies activities, event parades, religious events, and yes, even funeral procession (you are support the cause of sending of the person on his last journey).

The only exemption given is that religious event or funeral need not provide notification to authorities. That’s all.  It doesn’t say its not street protest. Yes, common sense will tell you obviously a religious parade or funeral procession is not a protest. But this law doesn’t specifically state so? So does that mean a religious procession can be a street protest per the definition above?

3. Why is place of worship is prohibited? Does it mean we can’t “assemble” at Batu Caves  or the local shrine any more? Need to get approval? Sounds contradictory to the “no notification needed” clause.

Conclusion: If you don’t know what you are talking about, better don’t talk about it. Give other example that you really know of. If not, end up like this la.

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