IGP’s statement to be fair on public rallies in next general election not re-assuring based on past police record, and Opposition wants iron-clad assurance that police will be truly fair, impartial and professional
by Lim Kit Siang
(Petaling Jaya, Monday): I have this morning faxed to the Inspector-General of Police, Tan Sri Norian Mai and the Election Commission Chairman, Tan Sri Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman the request for meeting with DAP leaders on the specific question of public rallies in the next general election, and the conduct of free, fair and clean elections generally.
Norian Mai’s statement yesterday that the police will be fair in processing applications for public rallies whether by ruling or opposition parties is welcome, but fall far short of giving any assurance that the police will be fair to the Opposition and that there would be fair, impartial, independent and professional police conduct based on the past police record. The Opposition want an iron-clad assurance that the police will be truly fair, independent, impartial and professional.
Only on Saturday, the Police was guilty of double-standards when it allowed the Barisan Nasional to hold an illegal public rally at the Stadium Merdeka, Kuala Lumpur to celebrate its “50th anniversary of Power-Sharing” which is denied to the Opposition. Will this be the standard of “fairness” which the police would be applying when processing applications by ruling and opposition parties for the holding of public rallies in the next election?
In the event, the Barisan Nasional 50th Anniversary “Power Sharing” illegal public rally on Saturday, billed as capable of drawing a 50,000 crowd, could only attract several thousands of people although the official crowd figure for the media was 30,000.
Norian Mai said yesterday that police approval for public rallies in the forthcoming general election hinged on whether the rallies would pose a security threat or affect public order. This is quite a meaningless statement and Norian Mai should explain when were public rallies allowed in the past without regard to security considerations?
Norian Mai seemed to have either forgotten or unaware that in the 19 years in the nation’s history when public rallies were allowed in the country, from 1957 to 1969 and from 1971-1978, police permit had to be sought and security clearance received for every public rally held. In the 19-year history of public rallies from Merdeka in 1957 until 1978, there had not been a single case of a public rally being the cause of disturbances.
In the past few days, several Barisan Nasional leaders have irresponsibly tried to link the May 13 riots in 1969 to public rallies. This is a distortion of history.
There had been no independent inquiry into the causes of the May 13 riots in 1969 and although controversy rages as to the actual causes, one thing is beyond dispute - that the May 13 riots had nothing to do with public rallies in the 1969 general election, for the following reasons:
If public rallies were the cause or one of the causes of the May 13 riots in 1969, they would not have been allowed immediately when the 21-month suspension of Parliament and all political activities during the National Operations Council (NOC) rule were lifted in February 1971 – with public rallies allowed for the next seven years, including during the 1974 general election
When public rallies were “temporarily banned” in July 1978 by the police, it was not because they posed security threat to the country, but because of the impending 30th anniversary of the Malayan Communist Party (MCP) armed struggle, with the police expecting intensification of urban guerrilla attacks following a spate of assassination of former Special Branch Chinese officers.preceded by the assassination of the Inspector-General of Police, Tan Sri Abdul Rahman Hashim in Kuala Lumpur.
But the 30th MCP armed struggle anniversary came and went without any incident, though the “temporary” ban on public rallies went on for 25 years, even after the peace accords reached by the MCP and the government in Haadyai in December 1989 and now, the biography of Chin Peng, the MCP Secretary-General entitled “My Side of History” are freely available in the bookshops.
Norian Mai must explain why the police had been so unfair and unprofessional in playing favourites or indulging in double standards where the Barisan Nasional parties are allowed to hold public rallies, such as the one at the Stadium Merdeka in Kuala Lumpur on Saturday, while the rally ban is applied strictly and severely against the Opposition, and which is now extended to ceramahs.
Is Norian Mai admitting that the security situation in the country today is worse than in the 19 years from 1957-1969 and 1971-1978 when public rallies were allowed and that the police under him cannot handle public rallies without compromising security?
Last Friday, I had proposed convening an all-party-NGOs meeting on Wednesday to ensure that the Code of Ethics drafted by the Election Commission for political parties, candidates, agents and election workers to ensure free, fair and clean elections should also bind the Election Commission.
However, with the change of the whole scenario after the intervention of the UMNO Supreme Council expressing its disapproval for the lifting of public rallies, the viability of the entire Code of Ethics formulated by the Election Commission has now been thrown into doubt and question. The proposed convening of the all party-NGOs meeting on a Code of Ethics for the Election Commission is being deferred to deal first with the turn of events following the UMNO Supreme Council meeting.
* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman