Lim Kit Siang calls on the Police to arrest USNO MP for Kota Belud, Datuk Haji Yahya Lampong, for his role in the Kota Kinabalu riot of March 19

by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Kota Melaka, Lim Kit Siang, in Petaling Jaya on Saturday, March 22, 1986:

Lim Kit Siang calls on the Police to arrest USNO MP for Kota Belud, Datuk Haji Yahya Lampong, for his role in the Kota Kinabalu riot of March 19

I made a one-day visit to Kota Kinabalu yesterday, in response to appeal by ordinary Kota Kinabalu citizens to know first-hand what had been happening in Kota Kinabalu and Sabah in the last 10 days.

The paramount duty of the Federal authorities and the police is to regain public confidence and give them form assurances that the escalation of unrest, instability, fear and trouble in the last ten days would not be allowed to recur.

There is no doubt in the public mind that the Federal authorities and the Police must bear part of the blame for the escalation of the Sabah situation, for if they had right from the beginning taken firm action to uphold law and order, the situation would never have got out of hand as resulting in the riot of March 19 in Kota Kinabalu.

For the first time since Sabah’s entry into Malaysia in 1963, the people of Sabah wonder whether the Federal government and the police have the capacity and resolution to defend life and property in Sabah.

I have no doubt that the Federal authorities and the Police have sufficient power and forces at its command without having to resort to Emergency proclamation or take-over of Sabah government to immediately restore law and order, and return Sabah to normalcy of ten days before.

In the light of the failure of the Federal authorities and the police to take swift action to stop the escalation of tension in the last ten days, allowing demonstrations, bomb blasts, arson and rioting to gravely undermine public confidence in the ability and capacity of the police to carry out its elementary duties, I would call for the sending of massive reinforcements of police to Sabah. This is because the increased visible physical presence of the police will go a long way to assure Sabahans that the police means business this time in upholding law and order.

However, if the police are to restore public confidence, it must take firm measures against all the rioters, including their leaders, responsible for the March 19 rampage in Kota Kinabalu. The Sabahans will never feel safe and secure, and that their life and protection would be the paramount duty of the Police, unless the trouble-makers are severely dealt with to remind others of similar or graver consequences in any future repetition.

Many USNO leaders have been seen, and photographed in the newspapers, as leading the demonstration resulting in the March 19 riot in Kota Kinabalu. I call on the Police to immediately arrest the USNO MP for Kota Belud, Datuk Haji Yahya Lampong, for his major role in the Kota Kinabalu riot of March 19.

I will write to the Inspector-General of Police, Tan Sri Haniff Omar, to convey to him my call, and my concern that the Police must be seen to be impartial upholders of law and order, and whoever defy the law to the extent of causing loss of life and damage to property, as well as unrest in our country, should be brought to book and justice to face the full rigours of the law, regardless of his station or party affiliation.

I agree with the former Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman, that there should be a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the outbreak of violence in Sabah. There is a organised conspiracy to escalate unrest, instability, fear and violence which must be fully exposed, for those who mastermind this campaign are the real enemies of Sabah and Malaysia. As there is widespread criticism by Sabahans at the Police handling of the way the organised campaign of agitation was allowed to be escalated day by day for an entire week, such I cannot agree however with Tunku’s suggestion that the Federal Government should appoint a caretaker government in Sabah, which would mean a Federal take-over and declaration of emergency.

The responsibility to look after law and order rests with the Federal government, and if the Federal government is unable to carry out its constitutional duty, it is the Federal government which is at fault, and not the Sabah State Government.

If the Federal government declares emergency and take over the Sabah government, this will tantamount to yielding to the organised campaign of agitation and escalation of fear, tension and violence, for this is exactly the objective of the masterminds of such a campaign.

The nation should punish those who are prepared to sacrifice lives, property and the rule of law, to achieve their selfish political ambitions, instead of rewarding them by giving them what they want – especially as the situation simply does not justify a Federal intervention in the sense of emergency proclamation and suspension of the Sabah State Constitution.