by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Tan 4 ongr Liiu Kit Siang, in Petaling Jaya on Tuesday, October 18, 1994:
Call on Mahathir to clarify whether the government has made a policy decision not to allow rallies in the next general elections
The statement by the Deputy Home Minister, Datuk Megat Junid Megat Ayub reiterating the answer given by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Home Ministry, Ong Ka Ting earlier in Parliament yesterday that the ban on public rallies would not be lifted has caused all-round confusion.
This is because the Inspector-General of Police, Tan Sri Rahim Mohamed Noor said in Ipoh early this month that the police will decide whether the ban on public rallies will be lifted when the date for general election is announced.
Has the IGP now changed his mind and the Police had submitted its recommendations to the Prime Minister as to whether public rallies should be lifted in the next general elections, and if so when was this recommendation submitted and had it been presented to the Cabinet?
The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamed should clarify whether the Government has made a policy decision not to allow public rallies in the, next general elections, and if so, to justify its decision to continue to impose the ban on public rallies.
Megat Junid should explain whether he was re-stating, the Government’s stand on the ban on public rallies subject to the Government’s review as to whether to allow public rallies in the next general elections as well as subject to the Police recommendations on the matter – or whether he is making a policy statement that the government would not lift the ban on public rallies in the next general elections.
The reasons given by Megat Junid for not allowing public rallies in Malaysia are so weak that they cannot bear any scrutiny or challenge.
Megat said that it is not necessary to lift the ban just to prove that Malaysia is a democratic country.
Let there be no mistake about it. Malaysia cannot claim to be democratic so long as public rallies continue to be banned in Malaysia.
It is not just the Malaysian Government, but the Malaysian people, who must feel ashamed that Malaysia cannot compare in democratic credentials with our neighbouring ASEAN countries like Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand and Singapore, as well as behind other Commonwealth countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka, which allowed public rallies during general elections.
What should be morel galling is that Malaysia cannot even compare with South Africa, which also allowed public rallies during general elections.
The ban on public rallies had nothing to do with the May 13 riots in 1969 as public rallies in Malaysia had never been the cause of public disor¬ders
Megat said that “Certain extremist religious and racist groups” might use the public rallies to “exploit current issues in the two-week campaign for the elections”.
This is a very significant and most unfortunate statement. Firstly, it implied that public rallies had been the cause of racial and religious unrest. and disorders in Malaysia; and secondly, it implied that the Election Commission is not free and independent and is working under the Barisan Nasional Government’s secret directive to allow only a two-week election campaign although under the Malaysian Constitution, it could allow a month-long election campaign or even longer!
Those who oppose the lifting of the ban on public rallies do not have history, reason or argument on their side, for they invariably claim that public rallies were banned after the May 13 riots in 1969.
In fact, if Megat studied history, he would know that public rallies were not banned after the 1969 riots, as public rallies in Malaysia bad never been the cause of public disorders.
This was why when political activities were normalised in 1971, public rallies were also allowed, and in the 1974 elections, public rallies were held without any untoward incidents.
Public rallies were banned only on 4th June 1978, not because public rallies were a threat to security and public order, but because the Police wanted to ‘maintain maximum vigilance until Merdeka Day on August 31 because of the possibility of violent incidents on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the Communist Party of Malayan on June 20″ and that “Such incidents may be carried out in States where there have been on previous manifestations of communist activity.”
In the event, there was not a single incident on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the armed struggle of the Malayan Communist Party – not even a ‘cracker’ went off – but the 12-week ban has ended up as a 16-year ban, despite the Haadyai Accord in 1989 where the Malayan Communist Party announced the end of its armed struggle and the laying down of its arms.
There can be no justification whether on grounds of public order, security or democracy for the continued ban on public rallies as public rallies should not have been banned in June 1978 in the first place.
For this reason, Malaysia must move forward courageously towards democratisation of the political process, with the lifting of the ban on public rallies as the first ini¬tial step.