Two Sarawak MPs freed from illegal rally charge

BY SULOK TAWIE
Sarawak DAP chairman Chong Chieng Jen (right) with counsel Gobind Singh Deo and Julian Tan (centre) speaking to reporters after the court has delivered its ruling, September 14, 2017. ― Picture by Sulok Tawie

KUCHING, Sept 14 ― The Sessions Court here today discharged and acquitted two DAP MPs of taking part in an illegal street procession without calling for their defence.

Judge Steve Ritikos, in his ruling, said he was not satisfied that the 2015 procession was illegal as defined under the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012.

The two are Bandar Kuching MP Chong Chieng Jen and Stampin MP Julian Tan Kok Ping.

The duo were charged alongside a few others still at large with taking part in a street demonstration on August 29, 2015 between 2pm and 3pm. The procession was said to start from a site in front of Hilton Hotel before hitting Jalan Borneo, Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman, Jalan Tabuan, Jalan Ban Hock and ended at the Song Kheng Hai Rugby Ground, the venue of the Bersih 4 rally.

Chong and Tan both pleaded not guilty to the charge under Section 4(2)(c) of the PAA which provides for a maximum fine of RM10,000 upon conviction.

A fine of over RM2,000 by the court could see them barred from holding their elected posts or holding any posts in the DAP as required by elections laws.

Speaking to reporters after the ruling, the defence's lead counsel Gobind Singh Deo said the judge has made a sound ruling.

“This is a very important decision because it defines the meaning of street protest under the PAA 2012 and that the learned judge has quite clearly said that there is a distinction to be made where persons met and moved towards an approved event at Song Kheng Hai ground as opposed to street protest.

“In other words, the purpose of the meeting is crucial and in this particular case, I think there is no doubt that the purpose the crowd met at the site in front of the hotel was very clear and that they were there to park their cars,” the lawyer said.

Chong, who is also Kota Sentosa state assemblyman and Sarawak DAP chairman, maintained that the charge was political persecution against him and Tan.

“It is a farce right from the beginning because the organisers were not charged in court,” he said, adding that he is glad that the “circus show” is over.

He urged the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) not to file appeal but to focus on more important matters.

Senior federal counsel Kamal Bahrain Omar told reporters that the AGC will decide if there was to be an appeal.