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Kg Medan: Arrogance of Power By Police and PM
By Kim Quek

18/3/2001 9:44 pm Sun

[Mahathir jelas menghasut rakyat membenci pembangkang dengan menuduh bukan-bukan kepada BA. Malah BA dituduh merencanakan pergaduhan kaum. Padahal capaian penerangan dan media BA terbatas dan asyik dikejar dengan akta hasutan. Sekadar berbeda angka kematian pun sudah bising macam anak kecil-kecilan.

Mahathir lupa dia sendirilah yang menyuruh 'Melayu Berperang sebagai Satu' beberapa hari sebelum tragedi Kg Medan. Inilah dia HASUTAN yang sepatutnya dikejar oleh polis kerana ia tersebar lebih luas dan sehingga tegang Kg Medan. Dan Firaun Baik ini tidak melawatpun ke hospital atau singgah ke Kg Medan walaupun pergaduhan ini sudah mencemar keharmonian dan iklim pelaburan. - Editor]



The heavy partisan role played by the police in the tussle for power between the Barisan Nasional and the Alternative Front took a dive towards the ridiculous, when the Police Chief of Selangor State announced (on 14th) action to investigate the party chiefs of the Alternative Front for sedition.

This police action arose from a joint statement from these party chiefs, in which they expressed reservation over the death toll announced by the police, "based on reliable family and hospital sources."

Not to be outshone by the police, Prime Minister Mahathir upped the ante the next day by accusing the Opposition of inciting the racial violence in Kampung Medan and the surroundings, singling out Keadilan Youth Leader Ezam as the culprit, for his alleged remark (denied by Ezam) in Mingguan Malaysia that he planned to topple the Government by street demonstrations. Mahathir made these statements during his visit to Kuala Lipis on the 15th, according to the Sin Chew Jit Poh daily and the Straits Times of Singapore.

These latest moves by the police and the Prime Minister are so far fetched that, as a common citizen who has already been seasoned by BN Government's high-handedness, I could not help but felt jolted with revulsion by such affront against common sense and decency.

Mahathir's remarks were particularly heartless and insulting. He described the Opposition's visits to the hospital and the afflicted zone to express their concerns and sympathies as an act of hypocrisy to "reap political capital". He further said "the Opposition seems to be targeting the poor in that area and has poisoned them into thinking that the government had neglected them."

Hurling such unprovoked and unfounded political salvos at a time when the families of those hacked to death were still overcome by grief, and scores more grievously wounded were struggling for their lives in the hospital, is a despicable act of bad taste. Apart from revealing the man's lack of empathy with the unfortunate, it also shows him to be devoid of the sense of fair play. The spontaneous reactions of the Opposition, through words and deeds, in quenching the racial fire and for protecting the victimized, have been witnessed by all as sincere efforts to overcome this national misfortune. BN leaders themselves had repeatedly emphasized that this conflict had no racial or political origin. If the Opposition had been the cause of this conflict, did it make sense for them to repeatedly call for a thorough and independent enquiry to ascertain the true circumstances that had occasioned this violence?

The Prime Minister can fling unjustified accusations at his adversaries at will, knowing full well that no law-enforcing agency dare to touch him, but has he ever given a thought to how the recipients of such injustices will feel? How would Mahathir feel, if some one accuses him of having caused this racial conflict, because prior to the eruption of violence at 8 pm on March 8th, Mahathir had on the same day exhorted "MALAYS MUST FIGHT AS ONE", as headlined by Star quoting Mahathir in a press conference convened specially to appeal for Malay unity "in the face of threats to Malay rights?"

If Ezam could be linked to this racial conflict through his alleged words (on 4th) of intent to overthrow the government, why can't Mahathir be also linked to the same conflict by his calls of "Malay Must Fight As One" (on 8th)? Doesn't the second linkage sound many times more plausible, considering the timing and the nature of the utterances?

Being the Prime Minister and President of the ruling Malay party, Mahathir's words of appeal to Malay sentiments should have motivated powerful racial emotions, while no one should read any racial connotation to Ezam's alleged words of confrontation against the government.

Coming back to the police role in these events, it cannot be denied that the police have been instrumental in finally putting the unrest under control, for which the Nation is grateful. But it also cannot be denied that at the outset of this conflict, the police had shown partisanship, and failed to effectively intervene without fear or favour in the first instant. Lives and sufferings could have been reduced otherwise.

With regards to the void of truthful information at the early stage of violence, all the concerned parties are to be blamed - BN leaders, police and the local mass media. This incident was first reported as "gang fights", then casualty figures were released without mentioning the racial nature of the conflict, while BN leaders kept on repeating that the conflict was non-racial. It took one to read a foreign news agency through the Internet several days later to find out that it was in fact a clash between Malays and Indians. No doubt the origin of the friction was non-racial, but it soon took on a racial dimension and exploded into a full-scale racial clash. The main catalyst to this explosion was the rapid spread of false rumours, which incensed anger and panic. The escalation went unabated at the earlier stage despite repeated assurance by police and cabinet ministers that the conflict was "non-racial". Why? This is because basically government leaders and police and the media have been so unfair in dealing with democratic dissents that they have been utterly discredited. Their insistence that the conflict was non-racial only confirmed the people's disbelief of official news. Hence, through this vacuum of truthful news, evil rumours spread like wild fire and play havoc with innocent lives. By the time the truth emerged in local mass media, the damage was already done.

It is against this background of withholding the truth from the people, that the opposition expressed its concern and called for transparency, truthfulness and urgency to clamp down with force and fairness. Opposition's reservation of official death toll was merely a reflection of the consensus of families and residents who had gone through this nightmare. As national leaders representing one half of the population of this Country as counted in the last General Election, these opposition leaders have the duty and the right to reflect the thinking on the ground and question the authorities. By no stretch of any imagination, can these responsible expressions of concerns be interpreted as conspiracy to incite fear and chaos. It is the height of arrogance and irresponsibility of the police to react to this opposition statement by taking steps to charge them for the offence of sedition. Such childish police action is an insult to the people, a mockery to democracy, and a laughing stock to the whole world.

This latest abuse of power by the police came on the heel of another ridiculous police insolence, which was the arrest and detention for 8 days and subsequent charging of Ezam for sedition for his alleged anti-government press statement referred to above, which was denied by Ezam and which, at any rate is not a breach of the law even if true.

The increasingly trigger-happy manner with which the Prime Minister and the police are indulging in throwing accusations and slapping leaders with sedition charges is an alarming signal of lawlessness. Such deterioration in the rule of law is surely further dampening investment sentiments and depressing the economy.

Kim Quek