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In just two days, the police attempted to curtail the public’s constitutional right to peacefully assemble. We refer to the pre-rally warnings issued yesterday of stern action against organiser and participants of Perikatan Nasional’s upcoming ‘Selamatkan Malaysia’ 16 September rally, as well as the layered police barricade at Plaza Tugu Negara this morning preventing organisers and protesters of Lawan Lapar from marching to Parliament to submit their memorandum on food security to lawmakers. We strongly condemn these acts.

The pre-rally warnings are an age-old tactic by previous government administrations to clamp down on ‘highly sensitive’ public assemblies, even when there is and was no indication that these assemblies were non-peaceful.

The layered police barricade this morning is eerily similar to the human chains of police officers during the Walk for Judicial Independence last year. The imposition of unlawful conditions by the police was also seen in both public assemblies, with the Lawan Lapar assembly involving the submission of the memorandum at the barricaded site, and the Walk for Judiciary Independence involving a quota of representatives who would be allowed to go to Parliament.

As self-proclaimed ‘reformists’, the current government should know better than to perpetuate State intimidation to curtail the right to peaceful assembly, especially when many of its members experienced this practice first-hand due to organising or participating in public assemblies whilst in opposition. It is crucial that the police not only allow but also facilitate the 16 September rally, when Perikatan Nasional has committed to cooperation with the law enforcement agency on the event. Furthermore, the government must take concrete steps, including amending or repealing the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012, towards ensuring that the Rakyat can fully exercise their fundamental freedom of peaceful assembly without discrimination.

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