February 18, 2008
On the eve of the Hindraf roses gathering, I predicted that the police would refrain from using water cannons and tear gas.
It is not inconceivable that the BN government will use tear gas and chemical laced water cannons on the children and their parents. Past events has suggested that this could be a possibility. I would even dare predict that if this were 2007, it would likely happen.
I say this because there is already a ready-made case for the government against Hindraf: The IGP Musa Hassan and Attorney-General Gani Patail will probably blame the parents for putting their children’s life in danger, and might trump up the charges of illegal assembly to include child abuse as well.
Fortunately, such blatant misuse of power and excessive force will probably not occur, because the Malaysia general elections is less than a month away on March 8th. Using violence on children will only fuel the people’s anger against the government, and the government cannot risk losing more votes.
You see, I had thought that with MIC in political shambles, the PM would be able to use this event as a public relations exercise to mend the community’s perception of the government, and perhaps win back some votes. But instead, he released the full force of the Royal Malaysian Police onto the people who were gathering in the city.
Early morning traffic leading into the city and surrounding suburbs was the first to suffer. Roadblocks were set up on up to 31 roads, causing once again a traffic snarl. I think it’s no longer a secret that KL-ites are being treated like Pavlov’s dogs. Besides the traffic jams, there were also reports of racial-profiling, where drivers of Indian descent were stopped and checked.
Then the violence against the gathering proceeded. The al-Jazeera news report:
Malaysiakini.tv provides more raw footage of the police brutality:
In the aftermath of the gathering, 160 to 200 people were arrested, but most were eventually released without charge. A typical and expected response came from the PM:
Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi today labelled the Hindu Rights Action Force as an extremist group which aimed to disrupt the general election.
According to a Bernama report today, Abdullah said that Hindraf’s illegal assembly in Kuala Lumpur this morning was an attempt to raise fear in the people and disrupt the polls which would be held on March 8.
“People who disrupt the elections do not respect the democratic process. When there is disorder, the people do not come out to vote for fear of getting caught in fights,” he said after attending a function in Yan, Kedah.
The police arrested about 200 people, of which all but nine were released later in the day. The nine are held overnight on a one-day remand for failing to disperse despite repeated request
by the police.
Commenting on the gathering, which had been declared illegal by the police yesterday, Abdullah said the action of the Hindraf supporters was not a culture of Malaysians who loved peace.
He added that the people would definitely not agree with such action aimed at creating chaos in the country.
He also did not rule out the possibility of the Hindraf supporters resorting to blockade roads to prevent people from going to the polls.
On the use of children in the illegal assembly, the prime minister said it was most regrettable as the children’s safety was put at risk.
“We regret that they (Hindraf supporters) use children to bring pressure to bear on their demands. This is not the way. The action endangers the children,” he said.
He also said that the authorities would not hesitate to use provisions of the legislation on child protection on those using children at such assemblies. (Me: which would be the only thing I predicted correctly)
The Prime Minister is really imaginative when he thinks Hindraf supporters would want to disrupt the polls. From what I gather, they can’t wait for polling day to arrive so that they can finally exercise their democratic rights.
There are now debates within the Malaysian blogosphere on whether the parents were being irresponsible for endangering their children. I will not comment on this, but would rather focus my thoughts on why, in the first place, parents cannot bring their children into the city for a gathering, without the police having to resort to violence.
Last I checked, the police was supposed to protect and serve the people. Saving the ‘face’ of the PM should not be their primary responsibility, but this seems to have superceded the police’s responsibility towards the people, the rakyat.
Ponder that. Then come March 8th 2008, use that vote of yours to decide if this is acceptable for you.