News24

Malaysia to relax public assembly laws

2011-11-21 09:34

Kuala Lumpur - Malaysia will relax laws to allow peaceful public gatherings to be held without a police permit, part of a move to allow more freedom of expression as Prime Minister Najib Razak accelerates reforms ahead of a possible general election in 2012.

The Peaceful Assembly Bill will be tabled in parliament on Thursday, and stipulates where such gatherings can be held to ensure they do not disturb public order, the pro-government New Straits Times newspaper said quoting unnamed sources.

It said the law was comparable to international practices and would allow the police to disperse the crowd if there were complaints from a third party, such as a house owner near the site of the gathering.

The government has said the laws were needed to preserve public order, but critics alleged they were used to silence dissent.

The paper quoted law minister Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz as saying the cabinet had approved the tabling of the bill on Friday. He was not immediately available for comment.

The proposed change would follow earlier announcements of legislative amendments to allow greater freedom of expression, including the repeal of two controversial security laws.

Najib has promised political reforms to provide for civil liberties, especially after a rare anti-government street protest in July calling for greater transparency in the voting process.

Analysts have said Najib was expected to speed up the pace of promised reforms to address criticism that he has been slow in executing change amid growing speculation of a possible general election in early 2012.

The next polls are only due in 2013, but some analysts think Najib could opt for an earlier election while domestic economic growth was still relatively strong.