Mahathir commended for his most sober comments that the Kampong Taman clashes not sparked by racial sentiments but due to social  factors and DAP calls for high-powered action to ensure that the next three days are incidents-free

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya, Saturday): I commend the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad for his most sober comments at the Malaysia Hindu Sangam anniversary dinner last night  that the Kampong Taman clashes, the worst in 32 years in the country, were “not sparked by racial sentiments but due to social factors”.

He said that the government will take steps to address the problems faced by squatters nationwide, which  are  necessary as poor  people who lived in such settlements were often easily  stirred to violence as happened in the recent clashes among residents in Kampung  Medan and other settlements off Jalan Klang Lama in Petaling Jaya.

He said: "We know that this happened in an area where people  are very poor, and poor people are often stirred to  violence."

I am very relieved by Mahathir’s latest comments which are a far-cry from his most irresponsible statements on the Taman Medan clashes when he visited Pahang last Friday, when he indulged in unadulterated rumour-mongering and poltiicising of the tragic  clashes which had left  six dead, 44 injured and more than 220 arrested.

Changing the government stance in the first six days of the clashes that the clashes were not racial but minor disputes blown out of proportion by rumours, aggravated by  depresed socio-economic factors and that they had not threatened national security,  government leaders suddenly changed tack and started insinuating that "the clashes could have been planned by certain
quarters out to create chaos in the country”.

Mahathir set the worst example in rumour-mongering and politicising the tragic clashes during his one-day visit to Pahang last  Friday  when he said that there was a political agenda behind the clashes and insinuated that they were linked to Parti Keadilan Nasional youth leader, Mohd Ezam Mohd Noor in connection with his alleged intention to launch street demonstrations to topple the government.

Even worse, he told about   rumours  that hundreds of Malays were killed  which were   played up "by certain groups whose background was unknown" to arouse the anger of Malays, and similar rumours among the Indians - the first time any Malaysian had heard that there were rumours during the clashes that hundreds of Malays and Indians were being killed!

He also made the most gratuitous attack on the opposition for "now focusing attention on poor citizens by instigating them to protest against the government". His allegation that "focusing on squatter areas and sympathising with them (squatters) by visiting the sick and injured in the hospital" was a "ploy by the opposition to gain political mileage without any humanitarian consideration for others” and his  comment  that the opposition are “so anxious now to show sympathy for the so-called if there are a lot of poor people" are all in really bad taste.

The clashes in Petaling Jaya Selatan  must be regarded as a national tragedy as it represented the quadruple failures in nation-building, development planning, law enforcement and mass communications in the country, calling for the united efforts by all quarters -   the government, the opposition and the civil society - to adopt a holistic approach to restore inter-communal peace, harmony and goodwill and address their deep-seated socio-economic causes.

The DAP and Barisan Alternative will fully support Mahathir and the Barisan Nasional government, not to go finger-pointing or  witch-hunting, but to re-establish the basis for a civil society for all Malaysians in the urban ghettos by transforming them into  a modern township with all the basic infrastructures and amenities during the next five years under the Eighth Malaysia Plan.

It is a matter of grave concern that although there has been no recurrence of  the blackest  three days of the clashes from March 8 -10, 2001, there continued to be sporadic incidents  like the six new attacks in the past two days, which have “saddened” the Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

Abdullah said the government has no plans to impose a curfew which will inconvenience the people. I agree with Abdullah, although a curfew could have been one of the options during the darkest three days of the clashes from March 8-10, 2001.

However,  in view of the sporadic incidents  which undermines public confidence, national stability and Malaysia’s international competitiveness,  the government must spare no resources to ensure an incident-free situation to the troubled settlements and adjacent areas, especially in the next three days.

It is most unfortunate that the first week of Parliament failed to send out the clear message of the highest government and parliamentary concern about the Taman Medan clashes, causes and solutions as there was not only no special debate or Ministerial statement, but  efforts by MPs like DAP MP for Seputeh, Teresa Kok, Barisan Nasional MP for Tambun Datuk Husni Hanadzlah and the Opposition leader Fadzil Noor (Pendang) to highlight the  Kampung Medan clashes  were
shot down.

There was not even  a single Cabinet Minister in Parliament during the first working  day of Parliament  after question hour to receive the Memorandum of 51 NGOs on Kampong Medan clashes.

When Parliament resumes on Tuesday, it should make amends and schedule a special and urgent debate on the Kampong Medan clashes, causes and solutions.

Finally, to ensure that all quarters concerned, the government, the opposition and the civil society, can come together to adopt an united and  holistic approach to address the Kampong Medan clashes, causes and solutions, the police should drop all investigations against Barisan Alternative leaders for the joint statement on the clashes, which were made in good faith for the best interests of the residents in the troubled areas  and the country at large.


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman