A court ruling that the Government has no right to claim for damage to public property after a rally was regrettable, said Barisan Nasional strategic communications director Datuk Abdul Rahman Dahlan.
The decision by the Court of Appeal did not provide recourse against those responsible for such damages, he said.
“Orderly civil disobedience and the right to assemble are democratic rights.
“However, where does one draw the line, particularly in providing recourse for individuals or property owners who suffer damages in such instances?” said Abdul Rahman yesterday.
The Court of Appeal dismissed the Government’s appeal in a civil suit it filed against the Bersih steering committee over damage to public property incurred during the Bersih 3 rally in 2012.
In citing the Peaceful Assembly Act, the judge of the case yesterday said the law did not create a statutory duty, which if violated, would necessarily create a right of civil action by the Government.
Abdul Rahman said while the right to peaceful assembly exists, it must be exercised within the ambit of the law and not result in inconvenience or disruption to the public.
“I still believe that those responsible for assemblies should be held accountable for damages if laws on peaceful gatherings are not followed,” he said.
Following last year’s Bersih 4 rally, Abdul Rahman who was then Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Minister, threatened to slap the organisers with a RM65,000 clean-up bill.
Bersih 2.0 chairman Maria Chin Abdullah said the court’s decision was in the right direction towards better understanding of the rights of rally organisers and authorities overseeing it.
“The courts are rightly saying that the authorities have to take responsibility when people exercise their right of assembly,” she said when contacted.
Maria said last year’s Bersih 4 rally was peaceful without any untoward incidents.
Source -The Star Online-