Media Statement by Liew Chin Tong in Parliament on Thursday, 3rd July 2008: 

Joint exercise between armed forces and police shocking

The involvement of the armed forces in police efforts to suppress street demonstrations is a violation of the principle of separating internal security and defence concerns. It also creates unnecessary distress to the public and sends the wrong signal to the international community.

All morning, I have received several SMS from friends and constituents expressing shock and alarm over the joint exercise between the armed forces and the police (as reported in the NST, p.8 under the title "Armed forces, police prepare for demos") and the rationale behind it.

Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Musa Hassan said cooperation was crucial because political parties, non-governmental organisations and individuals were, of late, organising more illegal assemblies.

"It is crucial, and the right time, for the forces to organise and plan strategies to carry out duties in maintaining public order as outlined in the public order manual," he said.

Musa said the joint exercise, whose focus is on the Klang Valley, especially Kuala Lumpur, Shah Alam and Petaling Jaya, was to show that public order problems could be tackled properly and efficiently by both forces.

Since Independence, Malaysia has been distinguished by its separation of police powers and that of the armed forces. During times when the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand and other South-east Asian countries suffered from military intervention in state politics, Malaysia's clear separation of jurisdictions was hailed as a guarantee for permanent civilian rule.

In Malaysia's history, only in an emergency situation does the armed forces patrol the streets. This latest move by the armed forces and the police will open up a Pandora's Box, triggering a number of concerns that could send the country down a slippery slope.

A pertinent question that needs to be asked is this: Is the Government planning to stage emergency rule in order to stave off a legitimate political challenges from the Opposition?

The police and the Home Ministry must also explain why its 3,000-odd Federal Reserve Unit, 6,000-plus Special Branch officers and 15,000-strong Pasukan Gerakan Am forces cannot sufficiently handle any untoward incidents that may arise.

In any case, the civilised thing for the police and the Government to do is to acknowledge the basic human rights of Malaysians to assemble, as provided for in Article 10(1) of the Federal Constitution.

* Liew Chin Tong, MP for Bukit Bendera