DAP leaders will seek meetings with Inspector-General of Police  and Election Commission Chairman on the question  of public rallies in the next general election

Media Conference Statement (3)
at Chai Leng Park  market, Penang on the  DAP’s Love Malaysia/Defend Secular Malaysia campaign
by Lim Kit Siang

(PenangSunday): DAP leaders will  seek  to meet with the Inspector-General of Police, Tan Sri Norian Mai and the Election Commission Chairman, Tan Sri Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman on the question  of public rallies in the next general election.

Malaysians are entitled to know whether the so-called lifting of the 25-year ban on public rallies for the next general election is merely a “four-day wonder” -  full of sound and fury, signifying nothing, after the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad had virtually given his “thumbs down” to Rashid’s “greenlight” for public rallies on Tuesday?

When Rashid announced on Tuesday that public rallies will be allowed in the next general election, DAP leaders  had reacted with skepticism although the DAP had been calling for the lifting of the ban for 25 years - for the simple reason that as it was the police which imposed the ban on public rallies in 1978, only  the police can  lift the ban and not the Election Commission.

However, as events proved, even before the police had officially made any stand on the lifting of the 25-year ban on public rallies, the UMNO Supreme Council had intervened to indicate its opposition to any lifting of the ban on public rallies – raising the question whether the Police could act with independence, integrity and professionalism to safeguard the security of the people and nation without dictation or interference from UMNO leaders.

UMNO Vcie President and Defence Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said yesterday that Malaysia was democratic even without public rallies as the people have the ultimate power to determine the next government.

By Najib’s logic, Malaysia is democratic even without press freedom, without effective election laws and mechanisms to ensure free, fair and clean elections and to abolish money politics, without an independent judiciary to uphold the rule of law so long as voters can cast their vote on polling day – just like the voting in former communist Soviet Union where  Soviet leaders are periodically “voted” into office with over 99 per cent support of the electorate.

There has been a lot of misconceived and misinformed reactions to the proposal for the lifting of the 25-year ban on public rallies, as if security would be completely sidelined.  The Deputy  Suhakam Chairman, Tan Sri Harun Hashim, for instance, made the shocking statement that the security aspects should be first given consideration before public rallies are allowed in the 11th general election to avoid the repetition of the bloody 1969  racial riots.  (Utusan Malaysia 20.9.03)

Harun made two grave errors, implying that security was never considered in the past when public rallies were allowed; and secondly, that public rallies were the cause of the May 13 riots in 1969.

As there had been no independent inquiry into the May 13 riots and controversy rages as to the causes of the racial riots, may be Suhakam should empanel an independent commission of inquiry to conduct an impartial investigation into its causes. But one thing is clear – the May 13 riots had nothing to do with public rallies in the 1969 general election which, in any event, all ended on May 9, 1969, the eve of the polling day on May 10, 1969.

The police and government  never blamed the May 13 riots on public rallies, and this was why when Parliament was reconvened after 21 months of National Operations Council (NOC) rule in February 1971,  and the suspension on political activities lifted, public rallies were also permitted for the next seven years, including during the 1974 general elections.  If public rallies were the cause or one of the causes of the May 13 riots in 1969, public rallies would not have been allowed immediately when the ban on political activities were lifted in February 1971. 

When  public rallies were “temporarily banned” in July 1978 by the police, it was not because it posed security threat to the country, but because of the impending 30th anniversary of the Malayan Communist Party (MCP) armed struggle, with the police expecting troubles such as urban guerrilla attacks.

But the 30th MCP anniversary came and went without any incident, though  the “temporary” ban on public rallies went on for 25 years, even after the peace accords reached by the MCP and the government in Haadyai in December 1989 and now, the biography of Chin Peng, the MCP Secretary-General entitled “My Side of History” are freely available in the bookshops.

As Deputy Suhakam Chairman, Harun should not try to revise and rewrite history to undermine human rights.  The full board of Suhakam Commissioners should hold an emergency meeting as to whether they support or repudiate Harun’s stand.

The other grave error committed by Harun is to imply that in the past, public rallies were allowed without regard to security considerations.  This is completely wrong, as in the 19 years between 1957-1969 and subsequently  from 1971-1978, when public rallies were allowed, police permit had to be sought and security clearance received for every public rally held.  Furthermore, there has not been a single case of a public rally being the cause of disturbances in the 19 years when public rallies were allowed.

Two days ago, I had suggested convening an all-party-NGOs meeting on Wednesday to ensure that the Code of Ethics proposed by the Election Commission for political parties, candidates, agents and  election workers should also bind the Election Commission, but the whole scenario has changed with the Code of Ethics proposed by the Election Commission at risk with the hostile stand taken by the UMNO Supreme Council on Friday evening.

In view of this, the all party-NGOs meeting on a Code of Ethics for the Election Commission is being deferred so that the more urgent matter of the hostile UMNO attitude against  allowing  public rallies could be dealt with first.


* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman