(Petaling Jaya, Saturday): DAP has extended its fullest co-operation to the Police against rumours about riots involving foreign workers to restore calm and order.
I have not been able to reach the Inspector-General of Police, Tan Sri Rahim Noor, but I have spoken to the Deputy Director I of Internal Public Order and Security, Datuk Yusuf Said by phone this morning extending the fullest co-operation of the DAP to allay fears and restore calm among the people as a result of widespread rumours about riots in the Chow Kit area in Kuala Lumpur and impending trouble involving illegal Indonesian immigrants as the August 15 deadline for foreign workers to renew their permits draws near.
I have even made some proposals to Datuk Yusuf Said as to how the Police could more effectively stamp out the rumours and restore calm and order among the public, some of whom had been panicked to rush to supermarkets to hoard essential foodstuffs, causing long queues in supermarkets in Kuala Lumpur and the Klang Valley yesterday.
The City police chief, Deputy Comm Datuk Kamaruddin Ali yesterday assured the public that all was well and that everything was under control.
All DAP MPs, Assemblymen, leaders, members and branches will co-operate fully with the police in this matter.
The best weapon against rumours is instant and credible information, which can be accepted by the people without any doubt.
Rumours have always been a fact of life in any society, but they can become very serious in a society where official information channels have low credibility as a result of prolonged information deficit.
With the advent of information technology and the Internet, the problem created by rumours take on new dimensions.
The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad said some elements were spreading rumours over the Internet that foreigners had armed themselves and described as "traitors" those "out to create problems and chaos, even resorting to spread such malicious claims over the Internet".
The Inspector-General of Police warned that stern action would be taken against those sending e-mail messages or spreading rumours that illegal foreigners had bought parangs and knives in readiness to challenge the authorities on or before August 15.
In the past few days, I have received emails mentioned by the IGP, but I do not believe they were sent by "traitors" with the malicious intention to create "chaos" in Malaysia, but out of a genuine concern about their safety and those of their loved ones as well as Malaysians as a whole and with the purpose of trying to find the truth. I have not received any posting which I can feel is done with the evil purpose to wreck the society.
While those who use the Internet to spread malicious and wicked rumours to destabilise the society should be dealt with mercilessly, the authorities must handle the problems brought about by information technology and Internet in a "smart" manner.
By all means, the police should take action against those using the Internet to create mischief and chaos in the Malaysian society - provided these mischievous elements can be caught - but ordinary Malaysians who use the Internet to try to verify disturbing "news" which they had heard, which may turn out to be rumours, should not be treated like "criminals" at all.
What it means is that there should be no witch-hunt on the Internet, but that the Police and the authorities should have an IT team which can immediately nip the rumours on the Internet in the bud, by informing all netizens that rumours being spread are completely without basis, not just by bare denials, but with facts which can make such denials credible.