Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM) is greatly disappointed at the failure of the police force in preventing the riot at Low Yat Plaza on 11 July 2015, which could have been reasonably avoided given that Bukit Aman Police Headquarters is only 1.2 km or 7-minute drive away. We are also extremely concern over the authorities’ call to tighten regulation on social media and freedom of expression in the name of social harmony.
The incident at Low Yat Plaza was spurred by a relatively petty incident – an alleged theft committed by a youth at the Lenovo phone shop. The Inspector-General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar had on 13 July 2015 admitted that it was the mistake of a fellow police officer in releasing the accomplice of the youth who stole the handphone, who then had gone on to spread false news and led to a series a brawl. Nonetheless, this cannot be seen as the sole cause of the mob violence and riot.
The grandeur presence of police force and the Federal Reserve Unit (FRU) commonly seen in most public assemblies were absence this time. Common sense dictates that the alluding incident of 50 mobs attacking a man, and later, when a gang of 200 thugs brazenly gathered outside the shopping mall shouting unsavoury remarks – these are unusual incidents and a serious riot could have reasonably been foreseen. Police should have been able to recognize the issue and swift action should have been taken without delay. Given their lackluster approach in the Low Yat incident, it appears that the police is carrying out their duties selectively and further strengthen public conviction that the police force is unaccountable for and unreliable.
The Prime Minister Najib Razak, along with other authorities and public members, have blamed social media for whipping up racial sentiments that led to fistfights and property damage, and called for the Sedition Act to be used against individual for alleging instigating racial conflicts on social media. The fact that something so petty can snowball into a race issue says much about the effect of race politics in this country. In recent years, we see an increase in hate speech and violence that has stoked racial and religious hatred and intolerance by Malay extremist groups – and these has been tolerated and sometimes, backed by the authorities.
SUARAM’s Director, Dr Kua Kia Soong said, “Those who have studied Malaysian history will not fail to notice that whenever UMNO faces a threat to their hold on political power such as in 1969, 1974, 1987, a ‘crisis’ is created which has led to extra-parliamentary interventions by the state. The party has never been as desperate as it is today, when its decades of election fundings, patronage and cronyism are suddenly exposed in a scandal for the whole world to see.”
Given the Malaysian government’s past track record in controlling the parameters of public debate and the long practiced of the Barisan Nasional policy of intimidating those with dissenting opinions, to the point of charging and imprisoning them – the call by Prime Minister to invoke Sedition Act does not condone confidence, if anything, it is extremely worrying.
- urges the Minister of Home Affairs and the Inspector-General of Police to make public the standard operating procedures in dealing with riots and to identify the failures of police in this incident;
- reiterates our call to the government to establish the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) and to submit itself to an independent external oversight commission in achieving greater efficiency and accountability;
- reminds the authorities that the Sedition Act is draconian, subjective and arbitrary in nature, and should not be used against any Malaysians and;
- emphasizes that swift and immediate actions needed to end race politics and hate speech instigating racial and religious tension should be tackled immediately and impartially.
Released by,Sevan Doraisamy Executive Director Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM)