No Erections Please, We’re DBKL
Writer: Lord Bobo
Published: Fri, 27 Apr 2012
Dear Lord Bobo, is “Occupy Dataran” (or Bersih 3.0) breaking any laws by converging to sit at Dataran Merdeka? If so, which ones? (Rulebook, via email)
Good question, but not the correct question. Read on.
Ah. The charming local authority that is the Dewan Bandaraya Kuala Lumpur (DBKL). Amongst civil servants around the galaxy over, only the Outerneanderthalic Oxymortaloonic Beta Nanogoosters have civil servants who are more officious, more bureaucratic and more dismissive of the people they are meant to serve. Be that as it may, your question shows how Kafkaesque the little village of Malaysia is now becoming.
You can walk, can you not? You can sit, can you not? Is not Dataran Merdeka, by its very name of “Independence Square” a place for you to be free? Is not Dataran Merdeka the place where that very pleasant Tunku chap (he’s still quite active on Twitter, I hear) showed the darned Brits the door and declared in then Malaya’s Declaration of Independence that “the Persekutuan Tanah Melayu is and with God’s blessing shall be forever a sovereign democratic and independent State founded upon the principles of liberty and justice and ever-seeking the welfare and happiness of its people and the maintenance of a just peace among all nations.”?
Well, yes, Lord Bobo hears you. That was after all about 55 years ago. Malaysia is now a developed nation, and the rabble rousers who marched and protested to get our independence were excused for not acting in the Malaysian way, because they were fighting for our independence. Apparently now that we are independent, our democratically elected authorities (and DBKL) are free to harass and oppress us.
Anyway, we have digressed far enough. To answer your query, yes, the protesters currently camped out there (who confusingly consist of two distinct groups, both rather charmingly having a hash at the start of their names, thus rendering it easy to become a hashtag on Twitter without changing their actual name) #OccupyDataran and #MansuhPTPTN are probably breaking the Local Government (Dataran Merdeka) (Federal Territory Of Kuala Lumpur) By-Laws 1992 [PU(A) 304/1992] made under the Local Government Act 1976.
These by-laws ban erections on Dataran Merdeka. No, seriously. By-law 4 provides that no person shall, unless approved by the Commissioner in writing “4(o) erect any tent, booth, shed or other structure” and 4(r) “lie down or sleep in any part of Dataran Merdeka”. Both #MansuhPTPTN and #OccupyDataran seemed to have erected tents and were in fact sleeping (within or without these erections) in Dataran Merdeka.
Under By-law 14, the Datuk Bandar can order out of the Dataran Merdeka any person who breaches any of the by-laws, and under By-law 15 a breach of any by-law attracts a penalty of a fine not exceeding RM2,000 or to imprisonment for up to one year, or to both. It says “order out”, but we suppose dragging, punching, wrestling and man-handling is just a bit of a stretch from that.
For Bersih 3.0, By-Law 8 says “No person shall unless exempted, hold any public address, demonstration, assembly, meeting, gathering or any other activity in the Dataran Merdeka without a permit from the Commissioner.”
But, the correct question is – are those nasty by-laws constitutional, given that Malaysians are supposed to have freedom of speech, association and assembly, as well as freedom of movement within Malaysia, guaranteed to them under the Federal Constitution? And are those by-laws within the powers to make such by-laws conferred on the Commissioner under section 102 of the Local Government Act 1972?
Well, Bersih has very clever lawyers advising them so I’m sure we’ll find out soon enough!
On a side note, DBKL, in rejecting Bersih’s plans to hold their sit-in at Dataran Merdeka said the venue was unsuitable as (this was stated in writing to Bersih) “only national-level events are allowed at Dataran, like the National Day celebrations and Federal Territories Day.” Oh come on, pull the other one. This is obviously a fallacy. Many corporate events have been held at Dataran Merdeka. And isn’t a rally for free and fair elections a “national-level event” anyway?
Many critics also say that holding a sit-in rally at Dataran Merdeka would cause havoc and “disrupt lives”. Perhaps the authorities will then consider calling off the upcoming Standard Chartered Marathon in June, which involves the closure of not just Dataran Merdeka, but also 42 km worth of public roads.
Lord Bobo, if you truly believe in democracy, how can you support Bersih? Is it not basic democracy that citizens should use the proper democratic channels – such as elections – instead of street protests (sit-in or otherwise)? (True Democracy, via email)
So, your contention is that Bersih should pursue their cause of “free and fair elections” via an electoral process which they contend is neither free nor fair? His Supreme Eminenceness has heard this view being repeated ad nauseum by some individuals over the past week, but did not expect to hear it from a reader of this column. Go and sit in the corner.