The lifting of ban on public rallies a false hope

Press Statement
by Ronnie Liu Tian Khiew

(Petaling Jaya, Friday): Malaysians who were excited about the announcement made by the Election Commission chairman Tan Sri Abdul Rashid should realise by now, that the lifting of the 25-year ban in the coming general election may turn out to be just a false hope.

Abdul Rashid's announcement was questioned by de facto Law Minister Dr Rais Yatim. Rais, who is a minister in the Prime Minister's Department, told Berita Harian that the commission has no legal right to allow such outdoor rally during elections, adding that this discretion lies with the police.

Rais was joined by Consumer Affairs Minister Muhyiddin Yassin and the Sports and Youth Minister Datuk Hishamudin Hussein.

Muhyiddin, who is also Umno vice-president, said he disagreed with the EC chief's 'proposal' as outdoor political rallies could be a threat against national security.

Hishamudin said the EC announcement has put the police in a difficult position. He also said that it is a matter for the police as it involves security.

The biggest blow came from the DPM Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. Upon his return from China, he told reporters that the police would have the final say on the matter. He is also the Home Minister, the person who controls the entire police force.

Even Abdul Rashid himself has openly admitted that it is up to the police to decide whether a permit would be given or otherwise.

The Election Offences Act Section 24(B) (3) states:
A candidate or his election agent may, during the campaign period:

a) hold, convene or organise any open public meeting, open public rally, open public display or open public entertainment; or

b) give any open public address or open public lecture in the constituency in which the candidate seeks election;
but only if he holds a permit to do so, given to him by the police officer in charge of the district where the meeting, rally, display or entertainment is to be held, or the address or lecture is to be given.

The reaction from the BN/UMNO top leaders was natural and predictable. How could they discard an unfair advantage, which would help them winning elections all these years? Unlike the opposition parties, BN does not need public rallies or ceramahs to spread their message because they enjoy full access to TV, radio, newspapers and every other medium for their propaganda during, before and after general elections. And the word fair play was never in their dictionary anyway.


* Ronnie Liu Tian Khiew, DAP national publicity secretary and DAP Selangor chairman