(Petaling Jaya, Friday): I am shocked by the statement by the Federal Police Criminal Investigation Department director Datuk Yaacob Md Amin that the police have taken a serious view of public gatherings organised by the DAP as a show of support towards DAP Deputy Secretary-General and MP for Kota Melaka, Lim Guan Eng as it viewed them as unlawful under the Sedition Act 1948.
He said this was because the gatherings were to discuss a sentence served on Guan Eng which he had since appealed.
He said: "As the case is still pending, the issues discussed at such gatherings are sub judice. The issues also insult the integrity of judges and the justice system. As such these issues have ‘seditious tendencies’ as defined under section 3(1)(c) of the Sedition Act."
It will be a sad day for Malaysia if people who are shocked by the 36-month jail sentence passed on Guan Eng, not for any crime of robbery, arson or murder but for diligently and conscientiously discharging his duties as Member of Parliament to go to the aid of the weak and defenceless, and feel that this is unjust and that something is wrong with the system of justice, are regarded as having committed the offence of sedition.
Does the Police want Malaysia to score another "first" in the world, creating a situation where the majority of Malaysians are regarded as criminals in having committed the offence of sedition because they are outraged at the way Lim Guan Eng had been treated in defending the honour, human rights and women rights of a 15-year-old girl against the mighty and power UMNO Chief Minister of Malacca at the time?
Is the Police taking the position that, just like discussion of the water shortage crisis is now regarded as "sensitive", that it is also very "sensitive" and an offence of sedition to anyone to show sympathy, support and solidarity with Lim Guan Eng over his prosecution, conviction and sentence?
Datuk Yaacob is making a baseless statement when he said that the issues discussed at the Support, Sympathy and Solidarity ceramahs, dinners, conferences and forums "also insult the integrity of judges" for these gatherings are not about the integrity of judges, but about the injustice meted out to a Member of Parliament when he stood up for the honour, human rights and women rights of an underaged girl.
The issues discussed were the policy implications of the Lim Guan Eng case, freedom of expression, the duties of Members of Parliament, crisis of confidence in the independence and impartiality of judiciary, the future of democracy and nature of civil society in Malaysia.
How can the discussion of these policy implications of the Lim Guan Eng case be construed as "insult the integrity of judges"?
Yaacob said that the police broke up a DAP dinner in Petaling Jaya on Wednesday night because such gatherings were deemed to be public gatherings and as such, the organisers were required to apply for a police licence under the Police Act, 1967.
In actual fact, the DAP applied for a police permit for the PJ dinner and under the Police Act, the police must give the applicants 48 hours notice of a refusal so that an appeal could be made to the Chief Police Officer.
The DAP had written to the PJ Police a few hours before the dinner that as no refusal of the application had been received, despite repeated reminders, it assumed that the police had no objections to the dinner being held.
The Police seems to be making a lot of political statements lately. Bukit Aman public relations officer Supt Ghazali Mohd Amin for instance had said that there are alternative avenues such as television forums and the media and that there is no need to have public gatherings to air dissatisfactions or discussion of any issue.
Television forums and the media are not satisfactory or acceptable alternative avenues as press freedom in Malaysia is very limited. Worse, the Malaysian mass media can be very biased and unfair when it comes to the Opposition parties and NGOs.
A good example is the mass media treatment of the DAP's troubles, giving a very one-sided and tendentious coverage, where the statement of a branch is given more important treatment than the explanations of the National Chairman.
Utusan Malaysia, which very seldom give space to DAP, yesterday had very fulsome coverage about allegations of nepotism in DAP, when it has no word about the grave problem of KKN - corruption, cronyism and nepotism - in Malaysia which is now the focus of national and international concern.
It is clear from the mass media coverage of the DAP troubles in the past few days that the Barisan Nasional has a two-fold mass media agenda, namely;
The suggestion that television forums is an alternative is even more laughable. In my 32 years in politics, I had never been invited to any television forum. Last year, there had been two overtures to appear on television forums, but after I had accepted them, I was informed rather sheepishly later that "unavoidable circumstances" did not allow such television forums to be held.