The decision of the Attorney-General, Tan Sri Mohtar Abdullah to clear the 60 participants of last November’s Second Asia-Pacific Conference on East Timor, (APCET II), including several leaders of non-governmental organisations, of any wrongdoing and to charge four UMNO Youth members who participated in an unlawful assembly which disrupted the conference is welcome, long overdue but still leaves many important public- interest questions unanswered.
The decision of the Attorney-General had restored some faith in the independence and integrity of his office, which had been in the eye of public controversy recently as a result of many controversial decisions. It also vindicated the position of the NGOs which organised the APCET II conference that it was not an illegal meeting and that what was unlawful, criminal and had brought shame to Malaysia’s international reputation as a civil society was the lawless and “gangsterish” break-up of the meeting by some 600 people from the youth wings of the Barisan Nasional which had self-styled themselves as the Malaysian People’s Action Front.
The demonstrators, some of whom wore T-shirts identifying themselves as Youth members of the UMNO, MCA, Gerakan and MIC, manhandled some of the conference participants and damaged hotel property.
What is even more serious is that the lawless and “gangsterish” break-up of APCET II had not only the full public support and approval of top Barisan Nasional leaders like the MCA President and Transport Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Ling Liong Sik and the MIC President, Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu, but the UMNO Youth leader, Datuk Ahmad Zahid Hamidi had admitted that the entire disruption of the APCET II Conference was on his instructions.
The first question that comes to mind is whether in police investigations into the unlawful assembly and disruption of APCET II Conference, Zahid Hamidi had been questioned and whether the police and the Attorney-General's Chambers had ever considered prosecuting him for having admitted as being the “mastermind” behind the APCET II disruption.
Secondly, is it right and proper for the UMNO Youth Chief, who is speculated as likely to be promoted to high government office in the impending Cabinet reshuffle, to openly defy law and order in Malaysia by continuing to glorify the lawless and gangsterish activities of the Barisan Nasional youth wing members in disrupting the APCET II Conference, even after the Attorney-General’s Chambers have decided to charge them in court? Is the road to high government office in Malaysia in the 21st century going to be based on the open defiance of the government’s own laws?
Ahmad Zahid Hamidi should publicly apologise for the break-up of APCET II Conference last November as he had admitted taking the law into his own hands in directing UMNO Youth to break up the meeting, or he should be disqualified from holding high government office in setting a bad example in glorifying lawlessness, gangsterism and mob rule, setting the worst possible example for all - particularly the young generation of Malaysians.
Thirdly, the Deputy Home Minister, Datuk Megat Junid Megat Ayob had said in Teluk Intan on 16th November that six members of the so-called Malaysian People’s Action Front who had demonstrated against APCET II on 10th November 1996 would be charged in court as the police had completed their investigations. Why has the number dwindled from six to four as to those who would be charged in court?