The Cabinet tomorrow has the historic opportunity to herald a new era for human rights in Malaysia and announce the governmentís respect for the fundamental human right to peaceful assembly of Malaysians.
As the government has established the Human Rights Commission to signal to the country and the world that Malaysia is serious about human rights, the police must set the example and get rid of the water-cannon and riot-squad complex as its first reaction to peaceful assembly of Malaysians, and adopt a new strategy in connection with the legitimate concerns and interests of large numbers of Malaysians who want to gather at the KL High Court to listen to the verdict of the Anwar sodomy trial which is compatible with respect for human rights and within the framework of the maintenance of law and order.
The Human Rights Commission Tan Sri Musa Hitamís warning that "there could be provocations from certain quarters that would wish to incite violence and even rioting" and to be on the "look-out for such negative elements and frustrate them" on the occasion of the verdict of the Anwar sodomy trial should be heeded by both the people and the authorities, as both should co-operate to make the gathering at the Kuala Lumpur High Court a model of a peaceful assembly in Malaysia conducted fully within the framework of the maintenance of law and order.
There is still time for the authorities to work out a formula with political parties and NGOs where the fundamental human right of Malaysians to peaceful assembly and the security concerns of the police to maintain law and order could both be met.
Alternatively, the Human Rights Commission Chairman, Tan Sri Musa Hitam, can offer to mediate between the police on the one hand and the political parties and NGOs on the other to work out the ground rules for such a formula.
On Friday, It is not just Anwar and the system of justice that will be on trial as the the police and human rights in Malaysia will also be on trial.