(Petaling Jaya, Wednesday): Police has refused to issue a permit for a Support, Sympathy and Solidarity DAP Dinner in Petaling Jaya tonight - the fourth public meeting to be banned by the police in 10 days, confirming a police crackdown on civil liberties and democratic freedoms.
The three public meetings which had been disallowed by the police were:
It is most unfortunate and tragic that Malaysia is going against the world tide for greater democratisation. In Indonesia, the people who have been muzzled for three decades, are beginning to experience a new freedom of expression but in Malaysia, the government has suddenly become afraid of the voice of the people and is imposing restrictions on civil liberties and democratic freedoms which had never been imposed in the past when the country was under emergency rule whether because communist insurrection or Indonesian confrontation.
Is Malaysia facing a the most serious security situation in our national history to the extent that the government must promulgate a new policy that Malaysians can eat but cannot talk?
Two days ago, the Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim said that Malaysia might face an upheaval like Indonesia's unless it reforms the government, private sector and the political system.
Speaking at the Johore UMNO Convention at Sibu Island Resort in Mersing on Monday, Anwar said that while Malaysia should demand that changes be made in the international financial system, it must also be willing to change its own policies and rectify weaknesses in all sectors of society.
Anwar warned that if the government did not make the changes, then the people may demand them.
He said: "If we are unwilling to accept this then we may have to face the Indonesian situation where the people demanded changes. Therefore, we have to make changes before it is too late."
Anwar's endorsement for the need for political reforms is, however, completely at odds with the the high-handed and undemocratic police crackdown against public meetings for people to voice their concerns about national issues like justice, freedom, democracy and good governance.
With these crackdowns, the government is sending out a message that it is not only not prepared to have political reforms, it is setting the stage for a new dark age in Malaysia where the present already-truncated democratic system will come under greater assault to the extent that in Malaysia, the people can eat but cannot talk.
What is also very baffling is the mysterious manner the police is carrying out this crackdown, where the Inspector-General of Police, Tan Sri Rahim Noor, has maintained an eerie silence, refusing to explain or admit the rationale for such a crackdown, while at the various district levels, the police are told to reject applications for permits for public meetings.
It is time that the IGP or the Home Minister who is also the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, explain why the government has decided to impose a new crackdown on civil liberties and democratic freedoms, or is the silence of the government on the issue an admission that it knows that such a new crackdown has no good reason or justification whatsoever?
I call on Mahathir to ensure that good sense will prevail, and to immediately revoke the decision to impose a blanket ban on public meetings so that Malaysia will not become a new laughing stock as a country where people can eat but cannot talk.