(Petaling Jaya, Sunday): The Mahathir government seems bent on turning Malaysia into an international laughing-stock by curtailing the limited civil liberties and democratic freedoms allowed the people in the country with its latest police ruling that Malaysians can eat but cannot talk.
The police disruption of the Support, Sympathy and Solidarity with Lim Guan Eng DAP dinner at Lukut, Negri Sembilan last night is the fifth incident where the police had refused or disrupted a peaceful and orderly gathering of Malaysians concerned about the important issues of justice, freedom, democracy and good governance arising from the Lim Guan Eng case, and which posed no threat to security whatsoever and which had in fact been held thousands of times by the DAP all over the country in the past three decades without any untoward incident at all.
The mobilisation of fully-armed riot police to an orderly and peaceful political dinner by a legally-registered political party in Malaysia is an awful waste of public resources and funds, when the police personnel could be more profitably and gainfully deployed in deterring the influx of illegal Indonesian immigrants or to keep down the high incidence of crime in the country.
Instead, the police and the riot squads are now on full alert, not to deal with the influx of illegal immigrants or the menace of the drug problem or even to reduce the incidence of crime in the country, but to ensure that the DAP cannot continue to hold dinners and ceramahs which had been allowed even in the worst security phases of Malaysian history, when emergency was promulgated whether because of Indonesian confrontation or armed communist insurgency.
All this because the Barisan Nasional government had suddenly become very frightened of the peopleís voice, especially their sympathy, support and solidarity with DAP Deputy Secretary-General and MP for Kota Melaka, Lim Guan Eng, at the injustice of being sentenced to 36 monthsí jail for diligently and conscientiously discharging his duties as as an elected representative of the people in the defence of the honour, human rights and womenís rights of an underaged 15-year-old girl while the then mighty and powerful Chief Minister of Malacca who was accused of statutory rape got away scot-free.
What happened in Lukut last night is another disgraceful episode for Malaysia, besmirching the countryís international image and reputation which can only make Malaysians ashamed of being Malaysians where their rights and dignity have been reduced to such a pathetic state that they can only eat and not talk.
I will like to ask the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad whether Vision 2020 is nothing more than Vision "Animal Farm" where the people can eat but cannot talk?
Is this the way Mahathir is trying to resolve the worst economic crisis in the country, which the government had been fighting a losing battle in the past 12 months, by precipitating a political crisis - when what is needed should be wide-ranging political reforms and greater democratisation to so that there could be meaningful economic and financial reforms?
The DAP had applied for a police permit for the traditional DAP dinner but were told by the police that a dinner could only be held on the condition that speeches, karaokes and even the playing of songs are not allowed. Such restrictive conditions are most unfair, undemocratic and discriminatory for in Lukut the same night, MCA had a dinner party where all these conditions did not apply.
After the DAP leaders failed to persuade the OCPD of Port Dickson to allow the holding of a normal DAP dinner, DAP National Chairman, Dr. Chen Man Hin, the Deputy Secretary-General Lim Guan Eng and I broke into three teams and went table-by-table to apologise for our inability to deliver speeches at the dinner and to express great regret that Malaysia has become a country where the people can eat and cannot talk.
There was unanimous outrage among the people when we went round to the 80 tables at the policeís high-unhanded and undemocratic action and double-standards. In fact, the people, already outraged at the injustice of the Lim Guan Eng issue, have become even more outraged by the crackdown on DAP dinners and ceramahs as if it is now a crime and even an offence of sedition to show sympathy, support and solidarity with Lim Guan Eng.
The campaign of sympathy, support and solidarity with Lim Guan Eng has become a national movement for justice, freedom, democracy and good governance for all Malaysians, for if an elected Member of Parliament can be treated so unjustly, what assurance is there that ordinary Malaysians can get justice and fair play in the country!
DAPís Support, Sympathy and Solidarity with Lim Guan Eng events, as well as the national movement for justice, freedom, democracy and good governance, whether dinners, ceramahs and forums, would go on as scheduled as we still hope the Mahathir government can come to its right senses and stop institutionalising Malaysia into a country where the people can eat but cannot talk.
DAP leaders will meet the Inspector-General of Police, Tan Sri Rahim Noor, on Thursday to express our concern at Malaysia lurching towards a police state, to find out the rationale for the police deciding that the countryís security warrant Malaysia becoming an international laughing stock as a country where the people can eat but cannot talk and to demand the restoration of the civil liberties and democratic freedoms of Malaysians.