Malaysian Police should learn a few lessons from the global demonstrations by millions and millions of peaceful protesters against US war against Iraq to allow for greater freedom of speech and assembly in Malaysia

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Penang,  Sunday): The Malaysian Police should learn a few lessons from the global demonstrations by millions and millions of peaceful protestors against US war against Iraq in the past 24 hours to allow for greater freedom of speech and assembly in Malaysia.

The Malaysian Police should even learn from the United States and United Kingdom, the two countries whose governments are terribly out of sync with world mainstream opinion against US war in Iraq, where millions of people are allowed to demonstrate their protest despite both countries under high alert for terrorist attacks.

America was under a week-long Code Orange "high risk" of "imminent terrorist attack" status, with anxious Americans stockpiling food and water while England underwent a five-day terror alert , marked by closure and evacuation of airports - but these heightened security alerts did not become excuses to clamp down on civil liberties to prevent the holding of the biggest-ever anti-war demonstrations in these two countries as well as in other nations worldwide.

The Friday warning issued by the Malaysian police that it would take stern action against those taking part in an anti-war demonstration in front of the US Embassy in Kuala Lumpur organized by NGOs and opposition political parties yesterday was most uncalled for, unwarranted and should not be allowed to recur.

The protesters yesterday in the capitals and metropolitan centres in countries whose governments either advocate or support war against Iraq reached or passed the million mark - most notably in New York, London, Rome, Madrid, Barcelona, with some 500,000 people in Berlin and 300,000 in Paris to join the anti-war global rally.

Although the Kuala Lumpur police eventually allowed the anti-war demonstration in KL yesterday to be held, its attempt to abort, hamper or restrict the campaign by Malaysians to join in the historic global anti-war rally by millions and millions of people in over 350 cities worldwide was a blot on the record of the Malaysian police.

The Inspector-General of Police, Tan Sri Norian Mai, should cause a full review of police responses to such peaceful demonstrations, in the light of the global anti-war demonstrations running into the million-people mark in New York, London, Rome, Madrid and Barcelona, as well as taking fully into account the public call by the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad to non-government organizations throughout the world to moblise the people to demonstrate and influence their governments to protest against the possibility of a US-led attack on Iraq.

The Malaysian Police must be agile, nimble and progressive enough to respond to the fast-changing global scenario and international expectations, so that their outmoded security complexes and mentalities do not undermine Malaysia's international standing and credibility by projecting the image that the Malaysian government practises double standards which exhort NGOs throughout the world to mobilize their people to hold peaceful demonstrations against US war in Iraq but forbid Malaysian NGOs and the Malaysian people to do the very same thing.

Nor should the police help to create the impression, both nationally and internationally, that demonstrations against the US war in Iraq in Malaysia is highly selective, regulated and orchestrated - only permissible if they are organized by officially-sanctioned entities like UMNO Youth and other "approved" NGOs but frowned upon as "trouble makers" if they are not organised through "official channels" but by people's movements to express spontaneous popular aspirations against war and to demand peaceful solution to the Iraqi disarmament question.


* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman