(Petaling Jaya, Sunday): DAP deplores violence, both against peaceful demonstrators, innocent members of the public and the police, which happened in Kuala Lumpur yesterday and calls for a peaceful solution to increasing popular political demands for greater democratic space for the orderly expression of the people’s rights to freedom of speech and assembly.
While the government and the police must recognise and respect the right to the peaceful assembly of the people to express their concerns and aspirations for a better society in an orderly and disciplined manner, and create greater democratic space for the exercise of such rights under the existing laws and institutions, every Malaysian must be conscious of the need to maintain a high degree of discipline to maintain law and order which can be quite fragile in a multi-racial society.
Malaysians do not want street violence or mob rule - but the people should be given the democratic space to exercise their fundamental right to peaceably and orderly gather to express their concerns. It is most unfortunate that up to now, the authorities have not been prepared to respond to the higher democratic expectations of the people and create greater space to provide outlets or channels for the expression of the people’s views and concerns.
Violence can only beget violence, and the vicious cycle of violence which reached its worst stage yesterday should be broken by a new spirit between the authorities and peaceful Malaysians for the police must always maintain their position as friends and not enemies of ordinary Malaysians.
There have been reports that last night of violence had been sparked off by very cruel police handling of unarmed and peaceable people at Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman and an independent and public inquiry should be conducted into the whole train of events yesterday so as to establish what should be the proper police response to peaceful political dissent.
The time has come for the government and the authorities to be more creative and imaginative to respond to the people’s demand for greater democratic space to express their views and concerns without jeopardising the law-and-order situation of the country, stop regarding every Malaysian who wishes to have such democratic space as a potential trouble-maker or ‘bad-hat’ and to resolve the problem not purely as a police or security matter but as a political challenge to increasing demands for greater democratisation by Malaysians.