Abdullah, Cabinet Ministers
and the IGP should give serious heed to Raja Nazrin’s advice and end 2007
with a “win-win” scenario by drafting guidelines for Malaysians to exercise
their constitutionally-enshrined right to hold peaceful demonstrations to
voice their grievances while maintaining public order
by Lim Kit Siang
The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri
Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, all Cabinet Ministers and the Inspector-General of
Police Tan Sri Musa Hassan should give serious heed to the advice by the
Raja Muda of Perak, Raja Dr. Nazrin Shah that “the desire to maintain
public order should not be an excuse for never allowing peaceful
assemblies” as the holding of peaceful demonstrations to voice their
grievances is a constitutionally-enshrined right of Malaysian citizens.
In an interview with New Sunday Times series “VOICES 08”, Raja Nazrin
“Freedom of expression
through peaceful demonstrations is a right people can reasonably expect to
enjoy in a democratic society. This right is enshrined in our
“So people are acting within their constitutional rights in wanting to
voice their grievances by holding peaceful demonstrations.
“The right to live in peace and harmony in a safe environment is also a
right people can reasonably expect to enjoy in any well-run society. The
government is responsible for public order.
“The right to demonstrate must always be balanced by the need to maintain
All Malaysians can accept Raja
Nazrin’s formulation of the relationship between public order and the
people’s constitutional right to peaceful demonstration as part of the
fundamental liberties of Malaysians to freedom of expression. They also
agree with Raja Nazrin that striking the balance between public freedom
and public order is never an easy thing to do and that it is a judgment
the authorities have to make on the available information.
The current controversy over peaceful demonstrations lies in the failure
of the authorities concerned to observe the important qualification
highlighted by Raja Nazrin when he stressed that “the desire to maintain
public order should not be used as an excuse for never allowing peaceful
assemblies” – as there is now a blanket ban by the police on all peaceful
demonstrations in the country for people to express their grievances!
Let 2007, the year celebrating the 50th Merdeka anniversary of
independence and freedom for Malaysians, end with a “win-win” scenario
with the Prime Minister, Cabinet and the Inspector-General of Police
drawing up guidelines for Malaysians to exercise their
constitutionally-sanctioned right to hold peaceful demonstrations to voice
their grievances while maintaining public order.
Malaysia, which claims to want to join the ranks of the first-world
developed nations, has a lot to learn from advanced countries in order to
shake off our “third-world mentality” and replace it with a “first-world
In London, Paris, Berlin or Washington, peaceful demonstrations are a
common occurrence involving thousands, tens of thousands and sometimes
hundreds of thousands of people, where the police help to maintain law and
order, facilitate crowd control and smoothen traffic flow – unlike in
Malaysia where the police will create a gridlock paralyzing traffic and
locking down the federal capital if there is a whiff of a peaceful
demonstration, however small!
It is time that the government and police listen to sane and rational
voices like those of Raja Nazrin and former Deputy Prime Minister, Tun
Musa Hitam, who in a New Sunday Times interview a fortnight ago made a
powerful case for peaceful assemblies in Malaysia.
Asked whether Malaysia is ready for peaceful assemblies, Musa who was
formerly Home Minister and was the first SUHAKAM Chairman, replied without
hesitation: “Yes! Come on, we have been independent for 50 years.”
Musa was clearly in full agreement with Raja Nazrin as the elder ASEAN
“The right to peaceful
assembly is enshrined in our democratic institution. That right also gives
the right to the government to refuse.
“The thing at issue is not that the rights are not there. The rights
exist. It is the application of the right and the administration of the
right that I am taking issue with.”
This is why it is shocking to
see the Education Minister, Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein, leading a
nation-wide campaign to drum up support against peaceful demonstrations
and even seeking to poison the minds of teachers and students by
subverting the fundamental liberties enshrined in the constitution –
especially the right to peaceful demonstration for Malaysians to express
Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic
Planning Commission Chairman