By Andrew Ong | Malaysiakini

At least 15 lawyers are bent on making a statement in conjunction with World Human Rights Day by marching from the Sogo department store to Central Market in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday.

Their message is simple — that citizens have a right to assemble peacefully and without prior requirement of a police permit.

Themed “Lawyers for Freedom of Assembly”, their march will start at 7.30am and proceed along the route originally planned by the Bar Council until it called off its plan on Tuesday.

Lawyer N. Surendran told Malaysiakini that the group decided on this after the Council cancelled its event, mainly due to pressure to obtain a police permit and concern for the safety of participants.

They are now in the process of contacting other lawyers to join them.

“We feel the (Bar Council) march was called off due to undue pressure from the authorities. We want to send a message that the people of Malaysia have the right to a peaceful assembly,” Surendran said.

He emphasised that the march is solely aimed at defending and protecting the right to peaceful assemblies and that no political element is involved.

“We expect the authorities to claim that we are influenced by the opposition. We will refute such claims. This is purely an initiative by concerned lawyers,” he stressed.

The government has warned of harsh action against organisers and participants of public rallies after tens of thousands lent their presence to events by the Coalition for Free and Fair Elections (Bersih) and Hindu Rights Action Force (HINDRAF) on separate occasions last month.

No application for permit

To a question, Surendran said the organisers will not apply for a police permit to hold the march.

“We think that applying for a permit is a negation of our fundamental right to freedom of assembly as enshrined in Article 10 of the Federal Constitution,” he explained.

He also expressed hope that concerned citizens would take part in the event to assert their right to assembly peacefully.

Meanwhile, the Bar Council will move its “Festival of Rights” event on Sunday to its own building located near the Central Market.

Human Rights Committee chairperson Edmund Bon said this was due to police insistence that a permit be sought for the event if it is held at Central Market.

“This, we cannot do, on a day meant to celebrate our freedoms. It would be ironic and outrageous for us to make such an application,” added Bon.

The event will feature forums, speeches, and performances ahead of the global day for rights which falls on Monday.

In September, some 2,000 lawyers had taken part in the council’s “Walk for Justice” to protest the rot in the judiciary, after fresh allegations were revealed in the “Lingam tape”.