DAP to lodge a formal protest against Suhakam Deputy Chairman for not protecting  human rights and  justifying opposition to lifting of the 25-year ban on  public rallies by falsely linking rallies with May 13 riots

Media Statement
at the Defend Secular Malaysia campaign at SS2, Petaling Jaya
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling JayaTuesday): The spectre of the May 13, 1969 riots was again raised recently to justify opposition to the proposal by the Election Commission Chairman, Tan Sri Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman for the lifting of the 25-year ban on public rallies in the next general election. 

Both the Berita Harian and Utusan Malaysia carried editorials falsely  linking the May 13 riots to public rallies, claiming that public rallies had not been allowed since 1969 while political leaders like the Negri Sembilan Mentri Besar,  Tan Sri Mohd Isa Abdul Samad warned of the “May 13” dangers if public rallies are allowed.  

What is most shocking is the statement by the   Deputy  Suhakam Chairman, Tan Sri Harun Hashim, also falsely  linking the May 13 riots to public rallies, when he stressed  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) 

Suhakam has been specially set up by Parliament and entrusted with the statutory duty to protect and promote human rights, and  Malaysians expect it to expose and oppose  violations of  human rights which used  fallacious and baseless arguments, like the spectre of May 13 to falsely  justify the continued ban on public rallies.  It  is simply outrageous that the Deputy Suhakam Chairman should violate the Suhakam charter to lead the pack to question and oppose  the lifting of the 25-year  ban on public rallies using  the most spurious of  grounds. 

DAP  will lodge a formal protest with Suhakam tomorrow against its Deputy Chairman’s statement for undermining human rights, for two reasons: 

Firstly, in  implying  that in the past, public rallies were allowed without regard to security considerations.  This is wrong and baseless, 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.  No  public rally had ever been cited as   the cause of disturbances in the 19 years when public rallies were allowed in the country

Secondly, it is a distortion of history to blame public rallies for the May 13 riots. 

 There had been no independent inquiry into the causes of the  May 13 riots in 1969  and although controversy rages as to the  actual  causes,  one thing is beyond dispute -  that  the May 13 riots had nothing to do with public rallies in the 1969 general election, for the following reasons:

  • Election public rallies had ended by May 9, 1969, the eve of the polling day on May 10, 1969; and
  • The police and government had  never blamed the May 13 riots on public rallies.

If public rallies were the cause or one of the causes of the May 13 riots in 1969, they  would not have been allowed immediately when the 21-month suspension of  Parliament and all political activities during the  National Operations Council (NOC) rule were lifted in  February 1971 – with public rallies allowed for the next seven years, including during the 1974 general election.

When  public rallies were “temporarily banned” in July 1978 by the police, it was not because they  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 intensification of  urban guerrilla attacks following  a spate of assassination of former Special Branch Chinese officers, preceded by the assassination of the Inspector-General of Police, Tan Sri Abdul Rahman Hashim in Kuala Lumpur.

But the 30th MCP  armed struggle 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”, is  freely available in the bookshops.

In the past three decades, Barisan Nasional leaders would threaten voters at every general election that there would be May 13 and racial riots if the Barisan Nasional is not returned with a strong two-thirds majority.

Is the Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who will become the fifth Prime Minister in 38 days’ time, prepared to publicly  commit the Barisan Nasional under his leadership not to raise the spectre of May 13 in the next general election to intimidate and stampede the voters to cast their votes for the BN?

After 34 years, it is time to exorcise the spectre  of the May 13 to ensure it does not continue to be abused to stifle the fundamental human right of Malaysians to vote freely without coercion or  fear.   This should be regarded as a top human right challenge by Suhakam, and tomorrow, DAP will make specific proposals to Suhakam  for the exorcising of the spectre of May 13. 


* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman