Coalition seeks 'crisis talks' with PM over crackdown

Andrew Ong | Dec 12, 07 6:04pm

A coalition of NGOs and opposition parties is seeking an immediate appointment with Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to discuss matters concerning the recent crackdown on activists and opposition politicians.

The message was conveyed through a joint statement read out by PKR de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim during a press conference in Petaling Jaya today.


“At this meeting, we intend to pursue the agenda of national unity and reconciliation among all Malaysians regardless of race and religion, press on our demands for free and fair elections, and work towards resolving the serious national problems we face,” read the statement.
The coalition said that recent events caused cracks in national unity while civil liberties are being eroded due to the crackdown against civil society and political leaders.
“Our foremost commitment is to national unity, multiracial solidarity as well as to the safety and welfare of all Malaysians.
“We believe that the only way to safeguard these values is to reject socially divisive approaches and uphold (Federal) Constitutional guarantees,” the coalition added.
‘Listen to us’
They also said that they are committed towards pursuing electoral reforms and would like the government to look into evidence of electoral malpractice.
“Justice, harmony and freedom in Malaysia will be forever absent unless immediate steps are taken to remedy these vital issues.
“The importance of addressing them vigorously is such that we will seek to bring the matter to the highest level of government,” said the coalition.
The coalition consist of 19 NGOs and four opposition parties. Most groups are also part of the Coalition for Free and Fair Elections (Bersih), whose’s leaders were targetted in the recent crackdown.
The crackdown also encompassed leaders and supporters of the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf). Some of them have been charged while others are languishing in jail pending trial after being denied bail.
Dozens of protesters have been arrested and slapped with charges including attempted murder and sedition after a series of banned street rallies that have infuriated the government.
Two major rallies last month, which police broke up with tear gas, water cannons and baton charges, have sent shockwaves through the nation.
Quizzed on the purpose of the meeting, Anwar said that concerned groups wanted to highlight the problems in the joint statement to Abdullah because previous efforts have failed.
“We want to adduce evidence so he can reflect on them. Currently, all the submissions, memos and reports have not been read by him,” he said.
“We have strong views, but we are prepared to listen to him (such as on) national security, which is also our concern,” he added.
‘We’re sincere’
DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng who also attended the press conference said the government had instilled fear amongst Malaysians by cracking down on detractors.
“By meeting the prime minister, we want to show the government that we are willing to talk,” he said.
“We are seeking an immediate appointment with the prime minister to discuss these pressing matters of state and urge him to honour his promise of being willing to listen to the concerns of all Malaysians,” said the joint statement.
“This brutal crackdown against leaders of civil society organisations and political parties is a clear contravention of the fundamental liberties and human rights guaranteed in our constitution.”
Asked why would the coalition want to meet the head of government when they blame the government for the country’s problems, Lim said the coalition wanted to show their “sincerity”.
“We talk about national reconciliation, not confrontation. This is not a platform for elections,” he added.
He however accused the government of stamping out dissent ahead of elections expected to be held next year.
“The government is using fear to intimidate the opposition. The government feels that fear is the only weapon that can be used to defeat the opposition in the next general election,” he said.
National Human Rights Society (Hakam) president Malik Imtiaz Sawar told the press conference that he hopes Abdullah would grant the meeting as a sign that he is concerned about the issues brought up by civil society.
“What we are hoping for is for the government to show that they are sincere and show that he (Abdullah) is concerned about what worries us,” he said.
Anwar added that the coalition would be officially seeking a meeting with the prime minister as soon as possible.