KUALA LUMPUR, May 21 — Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and PKR deputy president Azmin Ali will be the first persons to be charged under the Peaceful Assembly Act less than a month after the new law aimed at allowing public gatherings “in accordance with international norms” was enforced.
The PKR de facto leader and the Gombak MP will be charged tomorrow with participating in an illegal street protest during the April 28 Bersih rally. A later report by news agency Bernama stated that Rembau PKR chief Badrul Hisham Shaharin will also be charged.
A copy of the charge sheet sent to The Malaysian Insider said that the duo had breached a court order barring the public from assembly at Dataran Merdeka that day “and therefore you have committed an offence under section 4(2)(c) of the Peaceful Assembly Act.”
Opposition Leader Anwar and Azmin were accused of leading the breach of a barricade at the historic square after video clips showed the two exchanging hand signals just seconds before the barrier was pushed aside by deputy PKR Rasah chief R. Tangam.
They will also be charged under the Penal Code with conspiring with Tangam to disobey the court order, and face up to six months’ jail and/or a fine of up to RM2,000. The offence under the Peaceful Assembly Act carries a maximum fine of RM10,000.
Section 4(2)(c), which relates to the right to organise a participate in an assembly, states that “a person commits an offence if he organises or participates in a street protest.”
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak had said when tabling the law in Parliament last year that it would be “revolutionary” and allow Malaysians to participate in public gatherings “in accordance with international norms.”
Anwar and Azmin have denied exchanging signals to break a police barrier in front of Dataran Merdeka during the rally, with the former insisting these were to ask the Selangor PKR chief to negotiate with police.
The Permatang Pauh MP told a press conference the rolling motion he made with his hands directed at Azmin meant to “nego, nego” (negotiate).
Azmin said he then jerked his thumb over his shoulder and nodded to the former deputy prime minister to say “I had already negotiated with police.”
A few members of the crowd of 15,000, who were sandwiched between the square and Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL), begin chanting “masuk, masuk (enter, enter)” and the Indian man pushes the metal gate aside, allowing the crowd to burst through.
Police had obtained a court order barring members of the public from entering the historic square. Bersih leaders had also told supporters not to defy the order and instead hold their sit-in rally for free and fair elections at the point they were stopped by police.
But after some demonstrators breached the barrier, police fired tear gas and water cannons at them, leading to spiralling chaos as police chased Bersih supporters down several streets and some rally-goers retaliated and attacked riot police.