(Petaling Jaya, Wednesday): The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad yesterday accused certain quarters for using "mob rule and street justice" to show their dissatisfaction with the Government and threatening to destroy the peace and prosperity of the country.
He said these people did not like the countryís democratic and legal processes and preferred to show "their might by taking to the streets and creating chaos".
He said: "If we move towards this direction, I am afraid our country will not be peaceful and the people will suffer. What these quarters are doing can also be done by others (who are in favour of the Government) and it will result in clashes."
Mahathir made these statements in a gathering reported to be attended by 5,000 people at the Dewan Jubli Perak in Shah Alam yesterday.
The first question that comes to mind is why the Opposition parties and NGOs do not have the same facility or opportunity to hold a 5,000-people gathering at the Dewan Jubli Perak in Shah Alam to respond and reply to the Prime Minister or express their viewpoints - as the police is not only reluctant to issue police permit for such a public meeting, the state government or local authorities who own such venues discriminate against the Opposition and NGOs by refusing to rent out their premises for such public meetings.
Is such a democratic system fair and just, and is it wrong if there are many Malaysians apart from opposition parties and NGOs who want to see greater justice and fair play in our democracy?
It is no open secret that over the years, there is a crisis of confidence in the system of justice in Malaysia, where Malaysians feel that there is shockingly wide divide between the judicial and legal system as administered by the courts and justice as understood by ordinary Malaysians.
Is it again wrong for Malaysians who want to see the closing of such a divide where the judicial and legal system approximate as closely as possible with the dispensation of justice in Malaysian society?
Nobody in Malaysia want "mob rule and street justice" or a repetition in Malaysia of the Indonesian street violence as a recipe for the resolution of the political crisis in the country.
As far back as June 18, 1998 when a delegation of top DAP leaders met the Inspector-General of Police, Tan Sri Rahim Noor and other top police officers and held a frank and robust 75-minute dialogue, the DAP leaders made it very clear that Malaysians are not seeking democratic change through the Indonesian method of street violence, as any political change in Malaysia must come through the ballot box.
However, we made it very clear that while Malaysians do not want street violence as happened in Indonesia, their demands for justice, freedom, democracy and good governance are no less urgent and insistent.
For this reason, the authorities should take full cognisance of the aspirations of Malaysians for wide-ranging political reforms and greater democratisation and the suppression of these aspirations is not only unconducive to creating an united, cohesive and resilient society to face the nationís worst economic crisis but would undermine the restoration of confidence without which there could be no economic turnaround and recovery.
Mahathir is doing the nation a grave disservice by making wild allegations against the Opposition and the NGOs for advocating "mob rule and street justice". What he should do as the Prime Minister is to consider how the legitimate aspirations of Malaysians for political reforms and greater democratisation could be accommodated in line with the development of Malaysia as a more vibrant civil society - rather than continuing to apply laws drafted by a colonial power to deal with a subject population.
Malaysians to not want street violence, but their right to peaceably assemble to express their concerns and aspirations must be respected and the government must provide more democratic space for the exercise of such democratic rights, which are denied under the present laws and regulations.
Political reforms and greater democratisation should be a national agenda involving all Malaysians, regardless of political affiliation, race or religion and they should not be the monopoly of any one party or person.
Whether the Internal Security Act or other draconian laws should be amended or repealed, for instance, should be the result of a national consultative process and not as a result of the dictates of the Prime Minister or the Inspector-General of Police as Malaysia is a democracy and not a police state.
For this reason, DAP calls for an All-Party/NGOs Roundtable Conference to take full cognisance of the aspirations of Malaysians for wide-ranging political reforms and greater democratisation to involve Malaysians from all political beliefs and sectors of society to chart out a new political blueprint that can assure for all Malaysians greater justice, freedom and prosperity in the new millennium.