All police ranks should be impressed that their misconduct and abuses of power like the Palm Court police mistreatment of Indian IT professionals, creating a diplomatic and international incident, could cause grave economic damage to the country to the cost of millions or even tens of millions of ringgit

Media Conference Statement (2)
by Lim Kit Siang

(Penang,  Sunday): Acting Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, said yesterday that the report of the Inspector-General of Police into the Palm Court mistreatment of Indian IT professionals in Brickfields, Kuala Lumpur last Sunday would be submitted to India by the Malaysian Foreign Ministry.

This is most welcome, as it reflects a commitment by the Malaysian government to be open and transparent in its dealings with the Indian Government on the deplorable Palm Court incident which had plunged bilateral relations between the two countries to an all-time low.

Abdullah must be commended for trying to undo the damage of the Palm Court incident and I applaud his receptive response to the proposal that the IT professionals should not be further victimized by having to pay RM90 to have their defaced visas replaced by the Immigration Department.

In my memorandum to Abdullah yesterday, I had suggested that the Immigration Department waive the RM90 fee for the replacement of the defaced visas for all the victims of the Palm Court incident, or alternatively the Police should be responsible for paying the cost of visa replacements as the defacement was solely the work of the police last Sunday.

Abdullah was quoted in the press today as saying that the waiver of the RM90 visa replacement fee for the Palm Court victims was "a small problem which the government will look into" (New Sunday Times) and DAP urges Abdullah or the Immigration Department to make an immediate and definitive announcement on the matter.

Although the RM90 visa replacement fee is a small matter, it is nonetheless very important and significant, as it will be a strong signal as to whether the Malaysian authorities are prepared to accept responsibility for the abuses of power and police mistreatment of Indian IT professionals in the Palm Court incident last Sunday.

Despite being a week since the Palm Court incident last Sunday, the Indian authorities are still seething with rage and the Indian media and IT industry "up in arms" over the police mistreatment of the Indian IT professional and gross violation of their human rights compounded by the initial clumsy, maladroit and insensitive responses of government and police spokesmen, especially the Foreign Minister and the Deputy Home Minister, in the first five days of the incident.

The Andhra Pradesh chief minister N. Chandrabahu Naidu had written a strong protest to the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad over the Palm Court incident where the Indian professionals, the majority from Andhra Pradesh, were treated worse than criminals.

Naidu had played host to Mahathir when the Prime Minister led a 25-member high-level delegation to Andhra Pradesh last October and visited its Hi-tec City, the International Institute of Information Technology (IIIT), Infosys and Satyam's technology centre at Bahadurpally.

During his visit to Hyderabad, Mahathir welcomed Indian IT professionals to Malaysia and in particular to the Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) to leverage the huge talent pool in the software sector in India, especially in Andhra Pradesh, to boost Malaysia's IT development as Malaysia faced shortages of skilled IT professionals such as software engineers.

The Indian External Affairs Minister, Yashwant Sinha is reported to have assured Naidu that the Indian government would see that "the guilty Malaysian law enforcement officers are made to account for their action" as their behaviour was "uncondonable".

Indian President A P J Abdul Kalam, who was in Hyderabad yesterday to deliver a lecture, described IT as India's "trump card" and called for networking of talents to make India a superpower in the field of information technology.

He said: "Today, our IT industry is proud that 260 out of the Fortune 500 companies are its clients. When we march towards a developed India, I would like the IT industry to lead the march by proclaiming that 260 of the Fortune 500 companies are Indian MNCs".

Six years ago, when Malaysia proclaimed the MSC as "a gift to the world" and the centrepiece of the country's strategic initiative to leapfrog the nation into the IT era, Mahathir was speaking like Kalam about IT as the nation's "trump card" in the national aspiration and dream to become an IT power.

All such high hopes of becoming an IT power seem to have dissipated, and what is worse, we are grappling with adverse international publicity after being bogged down with one deplorable incident after another, like the Palm Court police mistreatment and human rights violations of Indian IT professionals casting a long shadow over Malaysia's place in the IT world.

Abdullah must impress on the police the seriousness of the Palm Court Incident, not only to the police's own national and international image and credibility, but to the country's economic well-being as well. In fact, the police should be made to understand that their actions, like the gross abuses of power in the Palm Court incident, can cause enormous economic damage to the country to the cost of millions or even tens of millions of ringgit in undermining national economic recovery efforts and national IT plans to position Malaysia at the cutting edge of information and communications revolution so that we can remain internationally competitive.
The government and police must be serious about a full and thorough investigation into the Palm Court incident and that there would be no attempt in any "cover-ups", and this is why it is most disappointing that the Inspector-General of Police, Tan Sri Norian Mai, has not given full details about the police officers who are conducting the investigation.

It has been reported that the IGP would submit his findings into the Palm Court incident to Abdullah tomorrow. Is this possible? Until Friday night, the Indian IT professionals who were victims of the Palm Court police mistreatment were completely unaware of any police investigations into the incident. Or could the IGP investigation into the Palm Court incident be conducted without involving the Indian IT professionals who were the victims? This seems unthinkable.

In any event, DAP calls for the report of the IGP investigation into the Palm Court incident to be immediately tabled in Parliament once it has been completed, so that MPs could debate it in an informed and intelligent manner - and not in the uninformed and biased fashion as done by some Barisan Nasional MPs in Parliament on Thursday, which did Parliament and the nation no credit whatsoever.


* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman