I have asked for a meeting with the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad on the government crackdown against freedom of speech and assembly

- Klang Rotary Club Luncheon Talk

by Lim Kit Siang  

(Klang, Thursday): Two days ago, 29 organisations issued a Joint Statement to express their outrage and condemnation on the recent interventions by the police in cancelling and disrupting three very important public meetings, namely the "Gathering of Legal Eagles" in sympathy, support and solidarity with Lim Guan Eng at the Federal Hotel, Kuala Lumpur on 31st May; the Sympathy, Support and Solidarity with Lim Guan Eng forum at Pantai Kundor, Malacca on 2nd June 1998 and the FOMCA forum on water crisis in Kuala Lumpur on June 3, 1998.

The Joint Statement said:

The 29 organisations which were signatories to this Joint Statement included four political parties, namely DAP, PAS, Parti Rakyat and the Socialist Party Malaysia which is awaiting registration, and 25 NGOs which included MTUC,  FOMCA, Aliran, SUARAM,  AWAM, ABIM, ERA, Tenaganita,  JUST, INSAN and COAC.

Unfortunately, the government seems to be set on a crackdown on civil liberties and democratic freedoms. I have been informed that the police had rejected the application for the holding of several DAP dinners in sympathy, support and solidarity with Lim Guan Eng.

Malaysia has become a country where the people have the right to eat but not to talk.  This is very sad.

Last night, the Police disrupted the  DAP Sympathy, Support and Solidarity with Lim Guan Eng dinner in Petaling Jaya, turning  a peaceful and congenial gathering of Malaysian citizens concerned about the great issues of justice, freedom, democracy and good governance into pandemonium - a classic example of the police going out of the way to show they are not friends of the people or sympathetic to the popular aspirations for justice, freedom, democracy and good governance.

DAP had applied for  police permit for the PJ dinner and despite repeated reminders, had not received any formal letter rejecting the application, which should be made with at least 48 hoursí notice to allow for the aggrieved party to appeal to the Chief Police Officer as provided by law.

Those who attended the PJ Dinner last night can vouch that it was very peaceful, orderly and congenial and something is very wrong with Malaysia when such dinner parties are regarded as the greatest threats to the security of the nation.

I do not know whether this is the decision of the Police leadership or the government leadership, making Malaysia the laughing stock of the world.

This is why I  have faxed a request for a meeting with the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, who is also the Home Minister, on the government crackdown against freedom of speech and assembly and to discuss with him the dangers of the country becoming a police state.

Malaysia seems to be drawing the wrong lessons from the Indonesian crisis and Suhartoís downfall.  In Indonesia, the people who have been muzzled for over three decades, are beginning to be able to find their voice again. But in Malaysia, the decision seems to have been taken to impose a crackdown on civil liberties and democratic freedoms, to impose restrictions which were never thought necessary even during the worst days of   emergency rule, whether because of communist insurrection or Indonesian confrontation.

It  would appear that the government wants the country and the world to believe that the country is faced with the worst security threat in the nationís history as to justify an unprecedented  crackdown on civil liberties.  This can pose a new obstacle to the economic recovery for Malaysia.

Although Malaysia is not as badly affected by the Asian economic turmoils as other countries, like Thailand, South Korea and Indonesia, there is a danger that Malaysia may lag behind than other countries in  economic recovery because of the "denial syndrome" of the the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad and the refusal of the Malaysian government to implement wide-ranging political, economic and financial reforms.

Mahathir is on the latest Time Cover and I do not think the  Time Cover article and interview with Mahathir is going to help in restoration of national and international confidence.

For instance, Mahathir started the Time interview declaring "I have never subscribed to the theory that this was going to be a short crisis", contradicing his statement in January this year of an economic recovery in six months to a year, although not as bad as the MCA President and Transport Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Ling Liong Sik, who said at the same time that there would be economic recovery in three months.

The Time cover article started with the following heading:   "As  Malaysia slips into recession, Prime Minister Mahathir is blaming everyone--except himself. Can 'Dr. M' survive the region's turmoil?"

The Time article continued: The Time article said: Has the government imposed a clampdown of civil liberties and democratic freedoms because Mahathir is beginning to suffer from a besieged mentality, as he is not prepared to allow greater demands by Malaysians for accountability, transparency and greater say in the decision-making process?


*Lim Kit Siang - Malaysian Parliamentary Opposition Leader, Democratic Action Party Secretary-General & Member of Parliament for Tanjong