Set up Taman Tugu speaker’s corner — Dr Muzaffar Syah Mallow

Source: NST Online

BY DR MUZAFFAR SYAH MALLOW

AS the government is planning to spend millions of ringgit to beautify Taman Tugu in Kuala Lumpur, taking into account the fundamental human right of freedom of speech and expression, there should be a speaker’s corner in the park.

Having a space for those who want to express their views openly is very important and signifies a civilised society. It indicates how much a society has developed in terms of freedom and democracy, as well as the authorities’ courage in allowing citizens to express themselves. As Malaysia moves towards achieving developed-nation status by 2020, it cannot be seen to restrain citizens from voicing their opinions.

As Malaysia moves towards achieving developed-nation status by 2020, it cannot be seen to restrain citizens from voicing their opinions.

People could gather at the speaker’s corner to listen, evaluate and, perhaps, challenge speakers’ views. It’s the people’s right to be able to communicate and express their opinions openly without fear of punishment, as long as they do not abuse this right and go against social norms and the law.

It is guaranteed under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted in 1948. Article 19 of the declaration states that: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference, and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

In Malaysia, this right is stated in the Constitution. Article 10(1) grants the freedom of speech and assembly. As such, having a space like the speaker’s corner is very much in line with the spirit of the Constitution. However, the right is not absolute.

The Constitution, by virtue of Articles 10 (2), (3) and (4), expressly permits Parliament, by law, to impose restrictions in the interest of the security of the federation, friendly relations with other countries, public order, morality, protection of the privileges of Parliament, providing against contempt of court, defamation or incitement to any offence.

While it is important to provide for such freedoms, it is also equally important to place limitations, so as to protect and maintain public safety. The authorities can learn from speaker’s corners in other countries, including London’s Hyde Park Speaker’s Corner and Singapore’s Hong Lim Park Speaker’s Corner.

The one in Singapore was opened on Sept 1, 2000, to allow citizens to speak freely. They are exempted from having to obtain police permits as long as they meet the terms and conditions of use.

The rules and regulations governing the speaker’s corner in Taman Tugu must be in line with international human rights standards and take the law into account.

Every state should be encouraged to create its own speaker’s corner, which can be used to hold activities and programmes, such as exhibitions and performances.

DR MUZAFFAR SYAH MALLOW,  Senior lecturer, Faculty of Syariah & Law, Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia


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