21st February 2022
Obtaining Permits for Conducting Ceramah is Regressive, A Step Back for Free and Fair Elections
I refer to the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for Johor State Elections 2022 as published by the Election Commission (EC) on Saturday 19th February. Looking through the SOP document, I find that most steps that were advised on made sense and are practical in the effort of breaking the chain of COVID-19, especially due to the rise of daily cases. However, it is disappointing and disheartening that while conducting ceramah is allowed, we would need to obtain a permit from the police.
Firstly, this form of bureaucratic procedure is regressive as permits are no longer a necessity. Permits for peaceful assembly were a requirement under Section 27 of the Police Act 1967. This would mean that PDRM had it within their discretion to grant permits for assemblies such as a protest or in this context, a ceramah. However, Section 27 of this Act was repealed in 2012. Thus no longer requiring organisers to seek permission from PDRM. They would just need to notify PDRM of the scheduled time and place.
I understand that during this pandemic, we would need to take extra precautions to protect our communities from contracting COVID-19, especially with higher volumes of voters coming into the state. However, I do not see how obtaining a police permit is important to meet that purpose. This is particular when the SOPs are already quite clear in terms of activities and capacities allowed. Furthermore, it leaves the onus to PDRM to arbitrarily withhold permits if and when they see fit.
I hope that the EC reconsiders this step and is reminded that this would only hurt the election process as it is not clear how many days it would take for the permit to be approved, and how much paperwork is needed. It also carries an unnecessary burden to the police officers who would need to file and review each permit that is submitted. I would also like to preemptively warn the EC that should the previous ruling coalition successfully obtain more permits to hold ceramah than the opposition, then it leads to a perception of biasness and that our efforts for a free and fair election have gone to waste.
Teo Nie Ching
MP for Kulai