For the last two days, Malaysians have been told by one top leader after
another, including the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad
and the Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad
Badawi, not to listen to rumours, that the incidents were isolated ones
and that the situation was under control, but the in the last 24
official death count has increased from one to three, the number of arrests have ballooned from 15 to 70, the injured have increased greatly from 18 to an unascertained figure, with numerous incidents reported not only in the several ghetto settlements off Old Klang Road in Petaling Jaya, most notably Kampung Lindungan, Kampung Medan, Kampung Ghandi, Taman Desa Ria and Kampung Datuk Harun, but also outside this area.
The press today again carried front-age reports of the assurance of
the Deputy Inspector-General of Police, Datuk Mohamad Jamil Johari, like
the Sunday Star's "Under control - Police arrest 70 and beef up security
after clashes". If the trebling of deaths, quadrupling of arrests,
and sharp increases in the number of injured and incidents can still be
Control", what is the meaning when the situation is "Not Under Control" - would it mean tens and hundreds of deaths and thousands of arrests?
There cannot be a sharper contrast yesterday between the Prime Minister giving the assurance in Putrajaya that police will look after the safety of the people of Kampung Medan and the neighbouring areas off Old Klang Road and a despairing MIC President and Works Minister, Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu breaking into tears at the University Malaya Medical Centre when confronted by family members of K. Muneiretham, who died after being attacked in the area on his way home from work, saying:
"Everyone is asking me what to do. I can't do anything at the moment except to cry."The first task of the authorities is to take all necessary actions to stop any further escalation of the clashes, not only within the ghetto settlements but also in other areas, marked by no more increase of clashes, deaths or the injured.
It is most shocking that after the clashes in Kampung Lindungan last Sunday between two groups, one preparing for a wedding reception and another a funeral, where a man was slashed on his arm, four motor-cycles set on fire and several cars had their windscreens shattered, the Police failed to take effective counter measures to avoid escalation of tensions in the area, which would have nipped in the bud the conflagration in the ghetto settlements resulting in clashes on Thursday night involving about 200 people over a broken car windscreen caused by several youths playing with catapults at the Desa Ria flats.
The failure of the police and the government to have the foresight to forestall the most serious ethnic clashes in the country in 32 years must be thoroughly investigated, but this must give way to the greater priority of stamping out the clashes and their spread to other areas by the full restoration of calm, peace, personal safety and security for everyone, regardless of race.
The government cannot pretend that the worst ethnic clashes in Malaysia in the past 32 years, which have already claimed three lives by official counts, is a minor aberration as the clashes have been reported worldwide by CNN as well as the foreign media.
Mahathir should himself get down to the troubled settlements not only to ensure the full restoration of calm, peace and security for everyone and the end of any more clashes, but to demonstrate that although the three deaths were all Indians - V. Segar, 34, A. Ganeson, 28 ( a bus driver who was attacked by a group of men armed with parangs and iron rods at 2 a.m. Saturday morning) and K. Muneirethnam - the government is no less concerned.
Once the ethnic clashes are stamped out completely with the restoration of peace, calm and security for everyone, then the next three urgent tasks are: