As we are aware that currently Malaysians are having a candlelight vigil in support of Maria Chin Abdullah and her family, it is quite shocking when you hear that the head of the police force calls the candlelight vigil illegal.
It was reported on Nov 22, 2016 that the inspector-general of police (IGP) said the following:
“Don’t think you don’t need to serve notice to light up candles. You are all breaching the Peaceful Assembly Act.”
This is very troubling indeed.
First of all, I do not think it is right, and i think all of us would agree, for anyone to use the words “light up candles” followed by the words “breaching the Peaceful Assembly Act” in a continuous statement. It’s an outright contradiction.
It’s like saying you can inhale oxygen but to exhale the carbon dioxide is a breach of some law.
I say this because the IGP’s statement is exactly that stifling.
Secondly, the nature of a candle light vigil is peaceful, and most times quiet, so how is it even remotely possible for a peaceful candle light assembly to breach the Peaceful Assembly Act? I am afraid to use the term oxymoron in fear that it might be taken out of context.
Thirdly, the words “serve notice to light up candles”. Seriously? It suggests that some permission is required before a vigil is held. Unfortunately a vigil does not work that way.
I can just stand outside of my house and hold a candle in support of someone. I do not need anyone’s permission for that. If my neighbours decide to join me and the numbers rise, then so be it. There is no peace and order to be maintained because that is exactly what a vigil is, peaceful and orderly.
If a candlelight vigil is held in a public park or a square, this issue of notice should not arise as well because it does not involve any maintaining of peace and order by the police. The word ‘candle’ is a giveaway that vigils are held at night and not at peak hours. So the presence of the police is not necessary unless on their own accord they wish to be present and light a candle.
I am not suggesting for a moment that I am not appreciative of the police presence where crime is concerned. For that we must say thanks and have gratitude.
Despite what the IGP has said with regard to the vigil being illegal, I am sure and believe that the IGP will eventually show his more compassionate side. The candlelight vigil is also a form of support for the family members.
I do not know who are the people in power that are actually giving this sort of orders but one thing is for sure. They may through force put out the flame ignited on the candle, however, they definitely cannot put out the flame for justice ignited in our hearts.
PUTHAN PERUMAL is an advocate and solicitor of the High Court of Malaya.