IGP should convene an all-party meeting on the lifting of the 25-year ban on public rallies to usher Malaysia back to  the Rukunegara objective to maintain  a democratic way of life

Media Conference Statement (2)
at the launch of the  Love Malaysia/Defend Secular Malaysia campaign at Sungai Way new village
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling JayaThursday): The negative responses from Cabinet Ministers, Mentris Besar  and Deputy Ministers have reinforced widespread skepticism whether the announcement by the Election Commission Chairman, Tan Sri Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman on the  lifting of 25-year  ban on public rallies in the next general election is an empty gesture without police endorsement and guarantee  as it was the police and not the Election Commission which banned public rallies in 1978.

It is  significant and ominous that there had been no word from the Inspector-General of Police, Tan Sri Norian Mai on the lifting of the 25-year ban on public rallies, when it was the then  Inspector-General of Police, Tan Sri Hanif Omar who had announced the ban on the flimsy pretext of the impending  30th anniversary of the  Malayan Communist Party (MCP) armed insurrection in July 1948 with the police expecting disturbances and unrest.

The 30th MCP anniversary came and went without a single untoward incident, but  the ban on public rallies, announced as temporary and specific to deal with the 30th MCP anniversary, has continued to this day for a quarter of a century!

The only police response so far  was  the guarded and non-committal comment  from the Deputy IGP, Datuk Seri Mohd Bakri Omar, who had to react extemporaneously to  reporters on the matter when closing the three-day Integrity Consolidation Seminar at the Senior Police Officers College in Cheras, Kuala Lumpur yesterday – that political parties would have to get police permits and abide by certain rules for the holding of public rallies, which is no different from the prevailing position for the past 25 years!

What is ominous is the public opposition to the lifting of the ban on public rallies by Cabinet Ministers, Mentris Besar and Deputy Ministers. The Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Seri Dr. Rais Yatim, said the Election Commission had no legal right to lift the ban on public rallies  in the next general election and denied that the police and the government had agreed to the lifting of the ban.  (Berita Harian)  

UMNO Vice President and Minister for Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin – the leading contender to  Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak for the post of Deputy Prime Minister when Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi takes over as the fifth Malaysian Prime Minister in less than six weeks’ time  – also  declared his opposition to the lifting of the ban on public rallies, making the preposterous claim  that it would “membabitkan keselamatan” as “ia akan membangkitkan perasaan perkauman dan tidak senang hati di kalangan rakyat”. (Utusan Malaysia)

The UMNO Youth leader and Minister for Youth and Sports, Datuk Hishammuddin Hussein, the Mentri Besar of Negri Sembilan, Tan Sri Mohd. Isa Abdul Samad and the Perlis Mentri Besar, Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim all expressed their reservations.

The Deputy Home Minister, Datuk Zainal Abidin Zin’s response is not indicative that the 25-year-old ban on public rallies will be lifted, when he said: “We cannot complicate the existing situation by allowing rallies which jeopardize security.” (The Sun)

The common message from these Ministers, Deputy Ministers and Mentris Besar is the unfair and undemocratic one  that only the Barisan Nasional can hold public rallies but not the Oppositon in Malaysia!

Suhakam, as the commission entrusted with the statutory duty to protect and promote human rights, should not keep silent and should declare its full support for the lifting of the 25-year ban on public rallies.

DAP calls on Norian Mai to respond to Rashid’s call  in a positive and responsible manner to usher Malaysia back to the   Rukunegara objective to maintain  a democratic way of life, by convening an all-party meeting on the lifting of the 25-year ban on public rallies.  Alternatively, Rashid can facilitate the holding of such a roundtable conference between the police and all political parties by hosting a conference for such a purpose in Putrajaya

DAP fully supports the lifting of the 25-year ban on public rallies, which is not only undemocratic but not supportable on any security ground,  as the holding of public rallies before the 1978 ban  for the first two decades of the nation’s history had never been the cause of disturbances in the country.

It is a blot on Malaysia’s democracy that public rallies could be allowed under the first two Prime Ministers, Tunku Abdul Rahman and Tun Razak but cannot be held during the 22-year premiership of Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad and the fifth premiership  of Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.


* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman