(Petaling Jaya, Friday): There is considerable public concern and anxiety about what might happen over the weekend, especially after the warning by the Deputy Director of Internal Security and Public Order Mohamad Yusuf Said on Wednesday which seemed to indicate that the police would act regardless of injury or death to children.
Yusuf Said had said : "The police can only take so much. So don't force us to take stern action when the situation is out of control."
Bernama news agency said he warned against "using women and children as human shields to deter police action" against unauthorized gatherings. He said: "Don't think that by using the children and women as shields, the police will not take stern action. This might be true but if the police have no choice ... injuries including death could occur to children exposed to tear gas," he said.
Malaysians are most concerned about this police statement as it raised many disturbing questions about police crowd control, when there can be no justification whatsoever for using excessive force against peaceful gatherings.
The first task of the Police is to protect lives and property, and it should not take any action, especially in the face of peaceful gathering of people, which would result in the risk to lives and property - particularly harm to innocent bystanders and children. In fact, it should be grounded into all Police officers and personnel that they should not do anything which could harm innocent people, particularly children!
It must be stressed that Malaysians have the right to assemble peacefully to express their legitimate concerns and aspirations which must be respected by a democratically-elected government. The police can arrest them for the offence of unlawful assembly and charge them in court if they do not have a police permit, but this does not give the police the right or licence to use excessive force, violence or commit brutalities against the people. If the people resist arrest, the police are only allowed to use commensurate force to effect the arrest.
I call on the Police to act with the fullest professionalism in crowd control and not to use force in any form against any peaceful gathering of people.
The police must re-establish public confidence in its professionalism, which was greatly shaken by the "black-eye" of the former Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, and which to date no report is yet forthcoming of the outcome of police investigations into Anwar’s allegation that he was brutally beaten up when in police custody on the first night of his arrest on Sept. 20.
The police should also be "professional" enough to reach the conclusion that the country is not so much faced with a law-and-order problem as a political problem where the people are demanding more democratic space for the right to exercise their constitutional right to peacefully assemble to express their legitimate concerns and aspirations, and the top police leadership should urgently recommend to the Prime Minister and the Cabinet that the best government response is to provide such democratic space in keeping with Malaysia’s commitment to be a democratic society.
While the Police must act with the fullest professionalism so as not to to allow any situation to get out of control, those who gather peacefully must under no circumstances provoke a violent outcome and must at all times act and demonstrate their commitment to peaceful means of action.
Violence in any form and from any quarter, whether by demonstrators or police, must be deplored as violence can only beget violence, and is completely unacceptable for a plural society like Malaysia.
DAP therefore urges on Malaysians, whether demonstrators or the police, to exercise the greatest restraint and not to resort to force of any form, whether this weekend or at any other time.