By Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Tanjung, Lim Kit Siang, in Parliament on Tuesday, 22.10.1987:
First Police statement on Chow Kit incident on Monday morning was not made in a manner which could quell all rumours that racial riots had started.
Director of Internal Security and Public Order, Datuk Haji Mohamed Zaman Khan, had not fully understood my criticism when I said that the police had not been able to act fast enough to allay public alarm and panic which occurred in the Federal Capital and even the whole country over the Jalan Chow Kit shooting incident.
Firstly, let me state that I commend the police for its successful action in apprehending Adam bin Jaafar, and I have no complaint whatsoever in this regard.
My criticism was with regard to the public relations exercise of the police in allaying public alarms, for the police must be aware that the Jalan Chow Kit incident set off panic in the Federal capital and the country that racial riots had started in Kuala Lumpur.
As the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamed, said on his return to KL yesterday, the Jalan Chow Kit incident had no racial overtones, as the victims included both Malays and Chinese.
But the public did not know about this, for it was never stated in the police announcements over radio that morning. The first time the public knew about this was when they read the Malay Mail or later through the Ministerial Statement by Deputy Home Ministers, Megat Junid in Parliament at 3.30p.m.
I know that Datuk Zaman Khan had given a statement which was used in the 4.30 a.m. radio new bulletin, but even those who heard the 4.30 a.m. or subsequent news bulletins did not give it much credence, kept their children away from school or themselves stayed away from work, because the basic facts which could quell all rumours and fears that racial riots had started was not given in the news bulletins.
The police should have realized that racial nerves had been rubbed very raw after the UMNO Youth rally on Saturday and the UMNO Divisional Leaders’ Meeting in Putra World Trade Centre the day before, and given equal attention to the need to quell and dispel rumours and panic by giving the basic facts of the Jalan Chow Kit incident at the first available incident.
The lesson the police must be learn from the Jalan Chow Kit incident is that the public must be given the basic facts of such incidents not only at the earliest possible time, but in a form which is believed by all, so as not to allow rumours to set off a panic in a highly inflamed situation.
Probably, the police were not fully aware that the two UMNO meetings, which had inflamed racial feelings to such a height, had presented a completely different situation. If Jalan Chow Kit incident had happened without the backdrop of the escalating racial tensions created by the two UMNO meetings, the police public relations exercise might have been adequate.
I made my criticism in good faith, for there is no doubt that the entire morning’s panic in Kuala Lumpur and the country could have been avoided. This is why I said that we still have to improve on the public relations aspect of our technique of crises management.