Govt Lost In Suit Against Bersih Committees

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KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 30 –  The government lost in its suit against former Bersih 2.0 co-chairperson Datuk S.Ambiga and 14 of its steering committee over damages that incurred during the Bersih 3.0 rally on April 28, three years ago. In dismissing the suit, High Court judge Datuk John Louis O’Hara ruled that the electoral reform movement could not be held liable for property damages during the rally.

“It was not shown to the satisfaction of the court that the damages occurred was actually caused by the legitimate participants of the rally or by independent agent,” he said. On May 23, 2012, the Federal Government sued Ambiga and 14 other Bersih members under section 6(2)(g) of the Peaceful Assembly Act (PAA) 2012 for allegedly failing in their duties as the rally’s organisers to ensure that it did not cause property damage.

The government claimed general damages and interest. However, on June 8, 2012, Ambiga filed a counter suit against the government, claiming that the latter had violated her constitutional rights. Among other things, she also argued that the PAA was against the Federal Constitution, pointing specifically to Section 6 which she said had restricted her right to freedom of assembly.

This is the first case where the government used the PAA against rally organisers. Ambiga’s counter suit was also the first time where the constitutionality of the PAA is being challenged in court. Meanwhile, Ambiga told reporters outside the court that it was a positive judgement. “As far as I’m concerned, it is a vindication of Bersih and of the people’s right to assemble and I hope the government does not appeal,” she said.

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