Tan and Bon slug it out over Assembly Bill

Posted by M ws On Sunday, December 11, 2011 0 comments
The following article is by Nigel Aw of Malaysiakini.

Photos are by King Chai of Loyar Burok.

A Twitter dare turned into a vibrant debate session on the Peaceful Assembly Bill 2011 between Kedah Gerakan youth chief Tan Keng Liang and prominent human rights lawyer Edmund Bon.

Held at the Pusat Rakyat Loyar Burok in Bangsar Utama, Kuala Lumpur before a packed audience of about 100, Tan faced an audience mostly ‘hostile’ to his points defending the Bill.

Tan feels it is alright for the government to ban street protests, but this must come with a proper definition of designated protest areas.

"The view from Gerakan is to fight for more designated areas, this is something the government has not announced yet.

"I believe we can work together on this to request more places in every state including Putrajaya; why can't we have it in Putrajaya? This is the centre of power," he said.

Pointing out that no police permit was required at designated areas, he added his view that this is a better alternative as street protests were no longer "viable" in a civilised society with the advent of Facebook and Twitter.

"In the 60s and 70s, there was no other way to bring out people's views; going to a street protest was the best option at that time but we have evolved, now is the age of technology,” he said.

Tan was rebutting an earlier point made by Bon who explained that street protests was a necessary instrument for democracy, citing how Onn Jaafar had led 15,000 people to demonstrate against the Malayan Union before Independence.

Sabotuers vs the 99 percent

While acknowledging that Malaysians have generally been well behaved in street protests, Tan adds that there has always been the possibility protestors may take advantage of the demonstration to cause problems.

"I trust Bon, I believe he will be well behaved in a street demonstration, but you don't know if anyone will try to take advantage of him," he quipped.

He stressed that it only takes one percent of bad hats in a protest to cause things to go awry. Therefore, he said the ban on street protests was justified, based on the interest of non-protesters

However, Bon replied pointing out that the 99 percent others need not be dictated by the one percent as there are several existing laws to deal with the scenario, including the Penal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code.

"But if the government and police refuse to do their job and are politically partisan, what can we do?

"We can just be peaceful... It is the clampdown by the institutions that make our peaceful assembly violent."

Street protests, Bon adds, is more effective in creating exposure about a cause, such as an anti-domestic abuse march or cancer awareness march, than a static rally.

'BN ignored us, Pakatan walked out'

The debate today was moderated by Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (Ideas) CEO Wan Saiful Wan Jan and is a culmination of exchanges on Twitter over the Bill.

While Tan and Bon were at odds over the legislation, they agreed that the MPs had let the rakyat down.

"We have 222 MPs in Parliament but they do not listen to you, some of the MPs just walked out, and the other MPs totally ignored the alternative bill (proposed by the Bar Council).

"We need to start making the roles of politicians extinct as mere administrators, (in that) for every law (they propose) they must come back and consult the people. That is people power," said Bon.

"I have said certain things that may be sensitive but he (Bon) did not stage a walkout," quipped Tan.

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