Baling Tragedy should not be used as an excuse to clamp down on legitimate political activity of opposition parties

By Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Kota Melaka, Lim Kit Siang, in Petaling Jaya on Tuesday, 26.11.1985:

Baling Tragedy should not be used as an excuse to clamp down on legitimate political activity of opposition parties

The Ministry of Home Affairs’ ban on ceremahs in Kedah, Perlis, North Perak, Kelantan and Trengganu, and its later extension to Penang, following the Baling Tragedy has raised the question whether the government is using the Baling Tragedy to clamp down on legitimate political activity of opposition parties.

In this context, I note Datuk Musa Hitam’s statement yesterday that the ban on ceremahs is a temporary measure to ensure that the Baling incident does not recur. Datuk Musa should explain what he means by ‘temporary’, for in the past, various extraordinary governmental measures which had been announced as of ‘temporary’ nature, became even more permanent than normal ‘permanent’ measures. One example is the ‘temporary’ ban on local government elections in 1965 on the ground that the country was facing the Indonesian Confrontation, but his ‘temporary’ suspension on local government elections has lasted 20 long years! Another ‘temporary’ ban was the suspension of public rallies during the 1978 general elections on the ground that the Malayan Communist Party was going to celebrate the 30th anniversary of their armed uprising – and again this ‘temporary’ ban on public rallies have now entered its seventh year.

Is the ‘temporary ban’ on ceramahs going to have as long a life as the ‘temporary bans’ on local government elections and public rallies?

Yesterday, the Trengganu State Executive councilor, Engku Bijaya Sura Syed Omar Mohamed, said the Trengganu Government has detected the existence of a group of self-proclaimed Muslim missionaries in the State said to be hoarding dangerous weapons in preparation for creating disturbances.

If the information on this group of ‘self-proclaimed Muslim missionaries’ who are ‘hoarding dangerous weapons in preparation for creating disturbances’ is so specific, then why hasn’t the government taken action to nip the plot in the bud. If the government has such information and is not acting, then the government has failed in its duty to uphold law and order.

But if the government has no such information, and the Trengganu State Executive Councillor was merely being the first to indulge in the ‘Politics of Fear’ to frighten the people from supporting opposition parties, then the Trangganu State executive Councillor should be condemned, I would even suggest that the Police should consider taking action to prosecute the Trengganu State Executive Councillor for irresponsible rumour-mongering which could seriously undermine stability and harmony in the country.

The Acting Prime Minister, Datuk Musa Hitam, must make it clear that the Barisan Nasional parties have no axes to grind in the Baling Tragedy, and that the police handled it strictly as a ‘law and order’ problem.

This is why on the very next day of Datuk Musa’s Ministerial Statement in Parliament on the Baling Tragedy, I suggested and Independent Commission of Inquiry, as it should be accepted as a principle of good and responsible government that an independent inquiry would be conducted into any incident involving several public deaths arising from government action. In this case, there were also police deaths, and this makes such an Independent Commission of Inquiry even more compelling. An Independent Commission of Inquiry into the Baling Tragedy would go a long way to convince Malaysians that the Baling Tragedy would not be made use of by any quarters for political reasons.