The return of water cannons: PM condones police's recent high-handedness and abuse of power?

Press Statement
Ronnie Liu Tian Khiew

(Kuala Lumpur,  Monday): Hundreds of  Malaysian peace lovers gathered in front of the US Embassy office yesterday, staging a protest against the US continued military occupation in Iraq. The event was part of an international protest organized in conjunction with the second anniversary of the Iraqi War.

While peaceful demonstrations in many other parts of the world went on smoothly, the one in Kuala Lumpur was disrupted by the police by brutal force. The authority not only has shamefully mobilized its riot police (FRU), they also brought back its infamous water cannon units, shooting powerful water cannons with chemical at the protestors.

The protestors were there to send a strong message to the US President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair, urging both of them to withdraw their troops from Iraq in order to put an end to the daily street fighting and suicide bombings which have taken several thousand valuable lives of Iraqi people and Americans and British soldiers.

The disruption of the anti-war protest yesterday has marred Malaysia’s reputation as a peace-loving nation. It also sends a message to the world community that the Malaysian Government has no more sympathy, support and solidarity with the Iraqi people who have suffered a great deal in the past two years.

This is not the first time Malaysian police under the leadership of Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi have resorted to undemocratic and high-handed tactics against peaceful gatherings of political parties and NGOs.

On March 1, 2005, they have also disrupted the launching ceremony of the Restoration of Local Government Elections campaign organized by DAP. Six DAP leaders including MP Fong Kui Lun and Setiawan State Assemblyman Nge Koo Ham were arrested at Dataran Merdeka (Independence Square) without justification.

The return of water cannons reminds Malaysians of the bitter chapter under the iron fist of Mahathir Mohammed. The Prime minister should clarify whether he condones police’s recent high-handedness and abuse of power. He should also apologize to the peace-loving protestors. Or Malaysians must now begin to realize they are living with a “smiling tiger”. Didn’t someone have just warned that the honeymoon is over?


* Ronnie Liu Tian Khiew, DAP International Secretary and NGO bureau chief