‘No’ to street protests

The Star – Monday December 17, 2007
PETALING JAYA: A large majority of Malaysians are against street protests and have backed the government’s decision to use the laws to stop anyone from threatening racial peace and harmony.

This was revealed in a survey conducted by the Merdeka Centre between Dec 17 and 21.
Eight hundred and sixty one respondents from throughout the country, who were randomly selected along the lines of state of residence, ethnicity, gender and age (21 and above) were interviewed over the telephone for the survey.
To a question on whether the Government should use all the legal means it has to stop individuals and groups from threatening racial peace and harmony, 73% agreed to such a tough stance.
However, 15% of those surveyed disagreed with such actions.
The survey also showed that 52% of Malaysians supported the Prime Minister in the strong action taken against the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) while 25% disagreed.
Fifty-two percent of the respondents felt that street demonstrations were unacceptable for voicing one’s views while 43% said it was acceptable.
Fifty-nine percent said that demonstrations were not an effective way to achieve the objectives of the protesters but 29% felt otherwise.
The respondents said that street protests not only affected business in the country
but also gave Malaysia a bad name overseas.
Eighty-two percent of the respondents felt that demonstrations disrupted business activities and traffic in the city.
Seventy-three percent said it would affect the economy while 80% of the respondents said the country’s image would be tarnished by such activities.
To another question on whether they believed the allegations by Hindraf that the Government carried out ethnic cleansing and extremists-backed marginalisation of the Indian community, 72% said “No”.
Fifty-six percent of the respondents felt that street demonstrations or illegal public gatherings would likely turn violent but 27% disagreed.
However, the response was almost evenly split on the question of who or what was likely to be the main cause for some demonstrations to turn violent.
While 32% said violence was caused by unruly demonstrators, 29% believed instigators or provocateurs in the crowd were to blame.
Twenty percent cited the actions of the police as being the likely cause of violence.
When the respondents were asked if they were aware of the two illegal demonstrations in Kuala Lumpur – 54% said they were aware of Bersih’s protest on Nov 10 while 77% were aware of the illegal Hindraf gathering on Nov 25.