Were the police right in getting a court injunction to prevent Dong Jiao Zong from proceeding with the 28 December Chinese Organisations Conference? Or were they wrong? Many seem to think so.
Ask me and I’ll say this first. Well, at least the police didn’t do what they did during the good old days of BN rule. Remember the tear gas, water cannons, mass arrests and manhandling at Bersih rallies? Or Hindraf and before that at Reformasi protests? And surely we have not forgotten the many road blocks to prevent people from attending anti-government rallies resulting in massive traffic jams all over the city of Kuala Lumpur which in turn caused hardship to many.
And how about APCET or the Second Asia Pacific Conference on East Timor back in November 1996? According to Suaram adviser Dr Kua Kia Soong, a 600 strong mob led by the youth wings of the then ruling BN coalition stormed the hotel in the federal capital where the conference was held, and violently disrupted it.
”The mobsters were allowed to storm the conference and harass the speakers and organisers while the police were uncharacteristically late by an hour to stop the mobsters,” said Kua in an article about the halting of the Dong Zong congress published in MalaysiaKini recently.
So, this time the police went to the court citing security concerns or rather “safety reasons”. After all, several Malay NGOs had threatened to hold their own rallies to counter the Chinese congress. There were groups who wanted to march to the congress venue.
The police were right in expressing concern that things would get out of hand. In the event of trouble the police would be “forced” to carry out action to quell it. And we know what the action would be.
By obtaining the court injunction to bar Dong Jiao Zong from holding the congress, there was no need to use force on anybody, be it the organisers or the anti-congress groups.
But many see the barring of the congress as an act of the authorities bowing to threats and pressure exerted by “hardliners” and “extremists”.
To be honest, they can't be blamed for saying that as the anti-Dong Zong groups themselves have boldly and proudly proclaimed “victory”, claiming they have “succeeded“ in preventing the congress from being held.
Hence the question is not whether the police were right or wrong in obtaining the court injunction to bar Dong Jiao Zong from organising the congress. We can argue till the cows come home and the moon turns blue.
Neither is the question why the Malay Dignity Congress in November 2019 was allowed but the Chinese congress wasn’t? Again, we can argue till the same cows come home and the same moon turns blue.
The issue is that the police must also take action of groups threatening Dong Zong or anybody else for that matter. And the big question is: will they? We all know the answer to that. Which is yes they must.
We can’t have groups behaving in menacing and threatening manner to roam free to do what they please.
And as I see it, PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang was out of line when he “reminded” the Chinese community that they are “living in a Malay world“ and therefore should not overstep its purported boundaries, as reported by Malay Mail Online.
Such remarks do not help matters. In fact, it can aggravate the already tense situation which the country can do without. The police ought to have a “chat” with Hadi.
So the Chinese Organisations Congress have successfully been halted. But the issue at hand -- Jawi, vernacular schools, education system -- are still here. Simmering and unresolved. It has not gone away just because Dong Jiao Zong is not allowed to hold its congress.
A day after the Chinese congress was halted, another Jawi congress was held which somehow was allowed to be staged.
I am not against this congress. It went on peacefully and was held indoors (which Dong Jiao Zong would have done with theirs if it was allowed to be held). Anyway, I can't help but say I don’t know if “irony” is the right word to use here.
But one thing is for sure: the issue facing us must be solved. A solution must be found as soon as possible. That calls for sincerity from all quarters.
By the way, on New Year’s Day, a group claiming to be the Malaysian Muslim Students Coalition or Gamis held a street demonstration in Kuala Lumpur against Dong Zong.
The police had earlier declared it unlawful or illegal, but Gamis proceeded with the protest anyway.
Isn’t doing something the police termed as unlawful or illegal, breaking the law? If so, what the authorities usually do with people who break the law? Doing something unlawful?
(Mohsin Abdullah is a veteran journalist and now a freelancer who writes about this, that and everything else.)