Thursday, July 3, 2008

'No' to soldiers on street duty at fuel hike protest

Source : Malaysiakini

Unprecedented and dangerous was how human rights group Suaram executive director Yap Swee Seng described yesterday’s suggestion that the armed forces be roped in to maintain public order.

“The armed forces shouldn’t be involved in what is essentially a civilian exercise,” said Yap.

Referring to the fuel hike protest this Sunday, Yap said it is basically a peaceful assembly and the organisers are not anticipating any untoward incidents.

“Anyhow, the police have enough manpower to handle the assembly.

Consumers Association (Subang and Shah Alam) president Dr Jacob George was equally concerned about the proposal.

“This has never happened in this country before and the kind of signals being sent out are very disturbing,” he said.

“I hope the government will not succumb to this temptation to bring in the armed forces with the excuse of preserving law and order.”

Jacob said Malaysia is a peaceful nation which has no scarcity of food, petrol etc and there has never been any chaos.

“All the people want is an outlet to express their feelings on the abuse of power, judiciary problems, corruption and inflation.

“Furthermore, if the army gets involved, foreign investors and tourists will be unduly worried. If we scare them off now, it will be very difficult to get them to return,” said Jacob.

Bring in the army

He was responding to reports in the Star and Utusan Malaysia today, quoting Inspector-General of Police Musa Hassan on the possible inclusion of the army to assist police to maintain order.

However, the police chief said that this will only be done after consultation with the home affairs and defence ministers.

Musa added that it was the responsibility of both the police and armed forces to ensure that peace and security prevailed in the country at all times.

He said this after the launch of the inaugural six-day joint police-armed forces exercise at the Royal Malaysian Police Senior Officers College in Cheras yesterday.

According to the report the exercise will be held in two phases. The first will involve discussions while the second will concern deployment.

In Utusan Malaysia, it was reported that the police have not dismissed the possibility of enlisting soldiers to assist them in the protest at Padang Timur (Petaling Jaya) this Sunday.

Joint exercise shocking

Meanwhile DAP Bukit Bendera member of Liew Chin Tong said that any involvement of the armed forces would tantamount to a violation of the principle of separating internal security and defence concerns.

"It also creates unnecessary distress to the public and sends the wrong signal to the international community," he said in a statement.

"In Malaysia's history, only in an emergency situation do the armed forces patrol the streets.

"This latest move by the armed forces and the police will open up a Pandora's Box, triggering a number of concerns that could send the country down a slippery slope," he added.

He also pondered if the government was planning to stage emergency rule in order to stave off legitimate political challenges from the opposition.