More clarity needed on Public Order Act (TODAYonline, Views)

FROM EDWIN DAI -7 HOURS 19 MIN AGO
TODAYonline

Last month, it was reported that six Malaysians were investigated by the police for holding a public assembly without a permit and were warned that “foreigners should refrain from importing their domestic political activities into Singapore” (“Police investigating voting drive”, April 16).

On May 2, only days before the Malaysian general election, Mr Abdul Ghani Othman, who was contesting the parliamentary seat of Gelang Patah, travelled to Singapore, and his trip received much media coverage.

It is in the interest of the public for the police to clarify the ambit of the Public Order Act.

The definition of “assembly” under the Public Order Act, Section 2(1), refers to a gathering or meeting of persons for the purpose (or one of the purposes) of demonstrating support for or opposition to the views or actions of any person, group of persons or any government; publicising a cause or campaign; or marking or commemorating any event. It also includes a demonstration by a person alone for any such purposes.

There appears to be inconsistency in the way the two situations were handled. A plea for Malaysians to perform a national duty was deemed to constitute an illegal assembly.

On the other hand, a trip by a (now former) Barisan Nasional (BN) Member of Parliament to Singapore, where he aired his thoughts on the coming election, was given media coverage. The purpose of his visit may be reasonably construed by some as an attempt to canvass support for BN from Malaysians residing in Singapore.

There is a need for the authorities to clarify the Public Order Act and its enforcement. Specifically, it is unclear whether Mr Abdul Ghani’s visit flouted the Public Order Act or, at the very least, was in direct opposition to the police’s position on “foreigners” and their “domestic political activities”.

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