Abdullah should deplore and dissociate from police firing of tear gas against women and children and arrest of peaceful protestors against US war on Iraq at KLCC on Saturday for breaking unwritten compact of anti-war all-party national unity and consensus

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya,  Monday): Acting Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi should deplore and dissociate from police firing of tear gas against women and children and arrest of peaceful protestors against US war on Iraq at the KLCC in Kuala Lumpur on Saturday for breaking the unwritten compact of anti-war all-party national unity and consensus on this issue, which saw an unanimous motion uniting MPs from all political parties, whether Barisan Nasional, Barisan Alternative or DAP, in condemning the US unilateral-led war without United Nations sanction.

Abdullah said yesterday that individuals or organisations intending to voice their opposition to the US-led invasion of Iraq should ensure that their rallies were per-mitted by the police and their protests made through Peace Malaysia.

As Home Minister, Abdullah should ensure that the police do not impose unreasonable restrictions or obstacles in the way of peaceful protests by individuals or organizations against the US war against Iraq.

It is no business of the police to require all peaceful protests to be channeled through the officially-sponsored People's Alliance for Peace Malaysia movement, as if Malaysians are only allowed to voice their protests against the US-led war against Iraq through official channels like Peace Malaysia while all other avenues to express their peaceful protests are illegitimate and illegal.

It is most regrettable that Abdullah did not even question the police as to the need to use tear gas to disperse the peaceful demonstrators, especially when there were women and children, at the KLCC last Saturday.

Before the parliamentary debate last Monday, the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad called on the government and opposition parties to shed their differences and speak with one voice on this important issue, and he asked that the parliamentary debate should not be derailed and linked to other issues.

The opposition parties had given a positive response to Mahathir, but this seems to have been reciprocated by police tear gas and arrests of opposition leaders and activists protesting against the US-led war against Iraq.
Abdullah should cherish the rare show of all-party national unity and consensus on the US-led unilateral war on Iraq and build on the unanimous parliamentary motion and ensure that the trigger-happy police attitude towards peaceful demonstrations should not be allowed to scuttle such all-party unity and consensus with double-standard treatment of anti-war peaceful protests, depending on the political orientation of the organizers.

In this connection, Abdullah should accept the outstanding Suhakam recommendations that the police respect the fundamental human rights of Malaysians to freedom of assembly as far back as 2001, by allowing anti-war peaceful demonstrations regardless of the organisers, as they are not demonstrating against the Malaysian government but the US-allied forces attacking Iraq.

The police should announce such a liberal and enlightened position, lifting the blanket ban on anti-war demonstrations and co-operating with anti-war peaceful demonstrators to maintain law and order, and canceling the police bond on the 12 persons arrested last Saturday, including PRM president, Syed Husin Ali, requiring them to report to the Dang Wangi police station on April 8.

Abdullah should also convene an all-party/NGOs anti-war roundtable conference to discuss and co-ordinate anti-war protests to ensure that the police are not allowed to scuttle the rare all-party anti-war national unity and consensus with high-handed police conduct like arbitrary arrests and indiscriminate use of tear gas.


* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman