KUALA LUMPUR, April 4 — The National Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) has dismissed claims that rallies are unsafe and bad for business.
In its 2016 annual report released today, the commission noted that trade rose during the four assemblies last year while the presence of tourists also demonstrated these were safe.
"The commission noted during its observation of the public assemblies that many shops around the assembly areas remained open for the most part or throughout the rally," the report said.
"And many tourists were also seen amongst the rally-goers.
"This showed public trust and confidence in the law enforcement authorities and the discipline of the rally-goers were high," it added.
The four rallies observed by Suhakam included Bersih 5 that was held here November last year to demand for institutional reform.
The gathering was attended by thousands and proceeded peacefully.
Police arrested the organiser's leader, Bersih 2.0 chairman Maria Chin Abdullah, under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 on the eve of the rally.
Suhakam pointed this out in its report while criticising the police action as unjustifiable.
“The Commission is mindful that there had been unreasonable intimidations made by the authorities and rival groups to discourage people from joining assemblies that protest the government,” it said.
“The arrest made by the police before and after the Bersih 5 rally… in the opinion of the commission unjustifiable”.
Suhakam went on to urge the authorities to respect the public's right to free speech and assembly.
It also reiterated calls for some provisions of the Peaceful Assembly Act to be reviewed, including the right of children to participate in public rallies.
“The Commission reiterates that Article 15(1) of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) guarantees the right of all children to assemble peacefully.
“Whilst noting that the right to assembly may be restricted by domestic laws as provided for under Article 15(2) of the CRC, the Commission recommends that provisions under Section 2(e) and (f) of the PAA, which restricts children from participating or taking part in peaceful assemblies..be reviewed,” it said.