Government leaders should not be ISA trigger-happy which could cause even more damage to confidence-restoration than the deplorable  Internet rumours which sparked off the panic last Friday causing a long queues at hypermarts and supermarkets to buy up the essential commodities


Media  Statement
by Lim Kit Siang  

(Petaling Jaya, Tuesday): Government leaders should not be ISA trigger-happy which could cause even more damage to confidence-restoration than the deplorable  Internet rumours which sparked off the panic last Friday causing a long queues at hypermarts and supermarkets to buy up the essential commodities

I am very disturbed by the statement by the Deputy Home Minister, Datuk Tajol Rosli Ghazali that the Internal Security Act of two-year detention without trial would be thrown against those responsible for rumours of disturbances in the Federal capital last Friday.

Tajol said the authorities have traced the source of last Friday’s rumours, which he described as "an act of sabotage".

He said the authorities were closely monitoring e-mail and messages posted on the Internet before the 16th Commonwealth Games because they fear certain irresponsible quarters are spreading rumours to affect the smooth running of the event.

The Internet rumours sparking off the panic in the Klang Valley last Friday, causing the city-dwellers into a panic-buying of provisions, is most deplorable and stern action must be taken against the perpetrators.

Has the authorities really been able to trace the source of the Internet rumours causing the panic in the Federal capital last Friday? However, it is important that the innocent, who were seeking confirmation of the rumours, should not be victimised.

The draconian law of the Internal Security Act should not be used at all.  Deputy Home Minister Ong Ka Ting told the Dewan Negara yesterday that there are laws providing offences for circulating false information on the Internet, providing penalties involving fines of RM50,000 or one year’s jail or both.

Those guilty of spreading malicious rumours on the Internet causing the panic at the Klang Valley last Friday should be brought to court for an open trial under the relevant laws and not detained without trial under the Internal Security Act, for there would be no safeguards to ensure that no person is wronged and victimised.

The government is causing a lot of confusion arising from conflicting and contradictory statements about the Internet rumours causing last Friday’s panic.

The Inspector-General of Police, Tan Sri Rahim Noor, for instance, who described the rumour-mongers as "traitors" who had tarnished the image of the nation and put the people in fear, said that the rumours could be the work of youngsters in their 20s, who are "hooked on the Internet 24 hours and have nothing better to do except to make up such irresponsible stories".

The Secretary-General of the Home Ministry, Datuk Samsuddin Osman said that it was possible that the rumours could be spread by youngsters as a joke through the Internet, unaware of their serious implications.

If Tan Sri Rahim Noor and Datuk Samsuddin Osmar are right, then we are not facing the scenario where there is a conspiracy by evil and traitorious people out to sabotage the Malaysian nation, but young netizens who do not understand their full duties and  responsibilities on the Internet.

The whole situation has now been muddied by another outburst by the Information Minister, Datuk Mohamad Rahmat, who accused "external saboteurs, who are out to destabilise the country" as being behind the circulation of last Friday’s rumours of disturbances in the country.

He said cyber rumour-mongers were abusing the Internet to spread disparaging literature about Malaysia worldwide out of envy of the country’s perseverance in dealing with the current economic problems.  I really don’t know what Mohamad Rahmat is talking about when the Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange Composite Index has fallen to the all-time low at 3.15 p.m. today of 334.85 points or 18.43 points  lower than the end of trading yesterday.

Mohamad Rahmat is clearly blaming Singapore. Has he got any proof?  Does Tajol Rosli’s statement that the authorities have tracked down the source of last Friday’s rumours of disturbances include having evidence that Singaporeans are behind the spread of the rumours?

(11/8/98)


*Lim Kit Siang - Malaysian Parliamentary Opposition Leader, Democratic Action Party Secretary-General & Member of Parliament for Tanjong