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Shameful Abuse of Police Power Against Legitimate Dissent

Datin Sri Wan Azizah Wan Ismail
The National Justice Party

The National Justice Party considers yesterday’s events as proof, yet again, of the Barisan National Government’s shameless abuse of police power and government institutions to crush legitimate dissent and deny the people their political rights. Yesterday’s gathering should not have resulted in any un-towards incidents had it not been for the senseless and heavy-handed manner by which the police intervened and provoked the huge crowd.

It must be noted that the intended site for the gathering was far from any city centre or high security-risk areas. The presence of high level leaders of the Alternative Front and other organizations also meant that the crowd, despite its size, was restrained and under control. Given these circumstances, the best that the police could have done was to ensure that the gathering took its course peacefully, handling matters relating security and traffic. But this was not to be. The police from their actions clearly had orders to ensure the 100000 people gathering will not be a success. One day ahead of the gathering the police had cordoned the site and had arrested 6 people including the landowner. They have also blocked all routes to the venue and placed numerous road-blocks on the way to it. This approach by the police led to the massive jam and clogging on all roadways to the Jalan Kebun site. The police had also conducted forays upon the peaceful crowd gathering by the road sides, in their cars and on the clogged Kesas Highway. Numerous eyewitnesses report that the police especially the F.R.U. spared no sympathy and came down harsh and hard on the people. People who were not resisting the police were batoned, kicked and punched. Cars and motorcycles were badly damaged with many car windscreens needlessly smashed. Exact numbers cannot yet be ascertained but many of these people who were attacked suffered serious injuries. One particularly telling incident was of a man who sustained serious head injuries while trying to shield me from a tear-gas canister which appeared to have me as its target. Police brutality near the end of the gathering was particularly mindless since the organizers had already announced their intention to disperse and were sending representatives to negotiate this with the police. In the end more than a hundred had been arrested and may face legal action. We call upon the authorities that these individuals, who were only exercising their constitutional right to gather peaceably, be immediately and unconditionally released. While in custody, those who are injured must be given proper medical attention. Investigations should also be initiated into instances of police brutality throughout the incident by SUHAKAM and by an indipendent panel.

We also call upon the BN government to desist from its cowardly tactics of using the law and government apparatus in facing the peoples’ opposition and dissent. The government must realize that in the wake of popular dissafection, it has to open up democratic space and allow the people to exercise their political and constitutional rights. Yesterdays gathering would not have caused anyone any inconveniences if the two original applications to have it in Stadium Bukit Jalil were allowed by the authorities. The courageous people of Malaysia, aroused and anxious will not be cowed into silence by threats and heavy-handed tactics. To confront the people in such a manner has proven time and again to be ineffective and disruptive. If any unruliness or violence had resulted, the main blame should be on the unprofessional manner of the authorities in handling such situations. Yesterday’s crowd however was commendably peaceful and under control despite its size and the surrounding circumstances.

Yesterday, the 5th of November 2000, Malaysians, well around the 100000 figure, from all communities walks of life decided that they have to send another clear message to The Prime Minister and the BN Government that they will not sit idle and tolerate injustices perpetrated by the present regime. It was really heartening to see these people walking together proudly, hand in hand, some with tears in their eyes, thankful, that for a moment, they were able to clearly mark their dissafection against Dr.Mahathir and the B.N. and express their hope and aspirations for a better Malaysia.

Kuala Lumpur, 6th November 2000.


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