This was why the people of Bagan in September 1995 and the people of Teluk Intan in May 1997 gave the DAP two great by-election victories.
In the Bagan by-election, the single greatest issue was the restoration of democracy and this was why Bagan won the name of "Bandar Democracy" because of the solid support given by the voters of Bagan to defend and uphold democracy. The people of Teluk Intan not only picked up the baton of democracy from the people of Bagan in the May 1997 by-election, they also unfurled the standard of justice, freedom, democracy and good governance.
In both the Bagan and Teluk Intan by-elections, the people made
clear their concerns about the restoration of human rights and democracy
in Malaysia; the repeal of undemocratic and draconian laws like the Internal
Security Act, the Official Secrets Act, the Printing Presses and Publications
Act, the Sedition Act and the Police Act; the restoration of the rule of
law and the independence of the judiciary; an all-out war against corruption
and all forms of abuses of power and malpractices; protection of the rakyat
against inflation and exploitative prices especially unreasonable tariffs
whether highway tolls or electricity tariffs, government inefficiency and
incompetence; the right of the people to development, housing, good education,
health care and quality environment as clean air and water.
The Bagan and Teluk Intan by-elections were proof that the political ferment for change in the country started well before Anwar Ibrahim was sacked as Deputy Prime Minister on Sept. 2 and drummed out of UMNO the next day but there is no doubt that Anwar’s reformasi movement has given the political ferment greater force and power to the extent that there is a political sea-change particularly in Malay society.
The events of the past few months, particularly from Lim Guan Eng’s case to Anwar Ibrahim’s case, are further strong testimony that Malaysians want political reforms to bring about justice, freedom, democracy and good governance. However, Malaysians want to bring about these political reforms through the ballot box and not through violence or mob rule.
Malaysia is not Indonesia and there is no room in Malaysia for violence or mob rule and there has been no such violence or mob rule.
DAP had taken this position well before the sacking of Anwar - in fact, immediately after the fall of Suharto when the Malaysian authorities were afraid that the "Indonesian contagion" would spread to Malaysia and started cracking down on public dinners and meetings by opposition parties and NGOs.
At a dialogue between DAP leaders and the top police leadership in June this year, I had made it very clear that Malaysia was not Indonesia and that Malaysians do not want violence or mob rule but their demand for justice, freedom, democracy and good governance was no less urgent and insistent.
What we want to see is greater democratic space for Malaysians to exercise their democratic right to assemble peacefully to express their legitimate concerns and aspirations without being regarded as "bad hats" out to create violence or mob rule in Malaysia - so that their demand for justice, freedom, democracy and good governance can be channelled and resolved democratically and peacefully.
The challenge to the Police as custodians of law and order is not to transform a peaceful demonstration into a violent scene by extremely provocative actions and handling of the situation, such as resorting to water cannon, tear gas and police brutalities against unarmed and defenceless people but to ensure that peaceful demonstrations end without any threat to law and order.
What Malaysia faces today is not so much a police or security problem as a political challenge demanding for change and this challenge must be met and resolved through the democratic and political process and not through police batons, tear gas, water cannons and police violence.
The DAP had expressed its support for Anwar Ibrahim’s reformasi movement as the Permatang Pauh Declaration announced by the former Deputy Prime Minister on 12th September was in keeping with the aspirations of the people for justice, freedom, democracy and good governance which have been the cause of the political ferment in the country in the past few years.
The seven-point Permatang Pauh Declaration stressed: