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Press Statement by Lim Guan Eng in Petaling Jaya on Monday, 28th January 2008:

The Prime Minister should stop deluding himself that arresting protestors and Malaysiakini journalists will make the issue of high prices and inflation go away or not become a general election issue

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi should stop deluding himself that arresting protestors and a Malaysiakini journalist will make the issue of high prices and inflation go away and not become a general election issue. Malaysians' economic hardship caused by rising prices is too big an issue to be covered up by high-handed and arbitrary abuse of powers of arrests.

DAP condemns the unwarranted and unjustified arrests of 50 people for taking part in a protest against price hikes on 26.1.2008 at the Dataran Merdeka. mongst those detained were a Malaysiakini journalist Syed Jaymal Zahiid, who was arrested simply for being present and doing his duty to cover the event.

By arresting Syed Jaymal, Abdullah has demonstrated again how freely he breaks his promises of greater political freedoms and human rights. Further by arresting a journalist, who was clearly not a protester but only doing his journalistic duty, not only has Abdullah shown no respect for press freedom. He has also shown his contempt for freedom of information and the right of journalists to "ply their trade" freely, undisturbed and unmolested by authorities or anyone.

Instead of arresting protestors against price hikes, Abdullah should examine the cause of their grievances. The people are unhappy not because the government is incapable of stopping rising prices. Malaysians are not so unreasonable as to expect prices to go down when it is reaching record levels internationally. However, the people are angry because the government has not taken any action to alleviate the sufferings and hardships of those whose purchasing power grows increasingly smaller by the day.

Why BN canít follows the principle of "sharing the benefits and bearing the burdens equally" by following Singapore, that gives S$2,500 yearly to poor and disadvantaged families? Despite Petronas earning record gross profits of RM 70.2 billion last year from record fuel prices, Malaysians have not benefited a single cent.

Instead of allowing Petronas to earn huge profits at our expense, the profits should be shared out with the people. DAP has proposed a RM 40 billion economic stimulus plan of giving a yearly RM 3,000 to individuals earning less than RM 3,000 a month or RM 6,000 yearly to families with a combined monthly income of less than RM 6,000. DAP's RM 40 billion stimulus plan is not only affordable (around 50% of Petronas gross profits) but almost the same as the yearly fuel and other food subsidies spent by the government.

Distributing such funds to the middle and lower income groups has the advantage of stimulating the local economy because the people will not go overseas for holidays unlike BN leaders. Instead this RM 40 billion would help to spur the local economy when the money is spent in the local market, benefiting local businesses.

BN's refusal to distribute money to the people has left those, who can not make ends meet because money's not enough, no choice but to demonstrate to demand their voices be heard. DAP urges the immediate unconditional release of the 50 detainees, including Syed Jaymal, and immediate distribution of part of Petronas profits.

* Lim Guan Eng, DAP Secretary-General


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