Monday, April 03, 2017

Dato’ Seri Nazri Aziz must prove that Malaysia is not a Police State

After great expectations were set for the Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz debate on 1MDB, for the second time, the Police stepped in to stop the debate by refusing to grant a “permit”.

The original intent was for the debate to be held in a townhall in the Tourism Minister’s own constituency, Padang Rengas.  The Police put a stop to that, forcing a change in venue to the premises of Karangkraf Media Group, the publisher for local daily, Sinar Harian in Shah Alam.

Despite an earlier approval by the Selangor police with conditions which were accepted by the organisers, the Police has now rescinded the approval.

Apparently, “the Shah Alam district police headquarters had received objections from residents in the surrounding area”.  Hence, “after studying and considering the matter based on public order, the peaceful assembly permit reference 4/17 dated March 31 is cancelled,” the Police said.

The denial of a permit for a political debate or dialogue is ridiculous at so many levels.

For one, Karangkraf is located at an industrial area, a good distance from the nearest residential zones.

Secondly, it is the role of the Police to facilitate and ensure that the dialogue or debate takes place in a peaceful manner by providing the necessary support and security.  The constitutionally-guaranteed rights to freedom of assembly and speech should not be denied by those who are threatening those very freedoms.

However, most importantly, it is not at all within the powers of the Police to deny approval for the event to take place.  Based on the Peaceful Assembly Act (PAA) 2012, all the organisers are required to do under the law is to give a 10-day “notice”.  The Act does not provide for the police to say yay or nay to an assembly, what more an indoor function at private premises.  A police permit is no longer required.

The clear cut abuse of power by the Police in this case shows without a doubt, the fear by the Najib administration for the debate on 1MDB to take place. The debate will only serve to confirm in the minds of Malaysians – the fact that billions of ringgit of 1MDB funds surfaced in the personal bank accounts of the Prime Minister.

It would have been a debate so lopsided that even Dato’ Seri Nazri Aziz, arguably one of the sharpest debaters on the frontbench, could not possibly win.  However, with the Tourism Minister demonstrating unbounded bravado, the Police was called to step in to stop the debate to save Dato’ Seri Najib Razak the blushes.

Dato’ Seri Nazri has previously told reporters that “Malaysia is not a Police State”, after the original debate was denied by the Police, hence the subsequent alternative arrangement was made.

Hence, we call upon the Senior UMNO Minister to prove that Malaysia is indeed “not a Police State” by insisting and proceeding with the debate with Tun Dr Mahathir, regardless of the ruling made by the Police.

The Minister’s failure to do so will not only confirm, by his own benchmark, that Malaysia has indeed degenerated into a Police State. It will also confirm that he is not a man of his words and has conveniently found a face-saving way out of proceeding with the much anticipated debate.
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