Veteran politicians dismayed but not surprised by forum violence

Chan Kok Leong Sharon Tan Thor Kah Hoong

Chairs and flares fly at the Nothing To Hide 2.0 forum in Shah Alam on Sunday. – The Malaysian Insight pic, August 15, 2017.

THE eruption of violence at Sunday’s Nothing To Hide 2.0 forum in Shah Alam was not a surprise to older politicians who have seen it all.

What was shocking for former MCA leader Lee Hwa Beng, though, was that objects were thrown at the elderly Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

“I cannot recall anyone ever throwing things at a sitting or at a former prime minister, especially a 92-year-old man,” said the former Subang Jaya assemblyman.

Lee said disagreements in politics should not lead to violence.

“If not nipped in the bud, it will escalate to more and worse violence, especially with the impending general election,” he said.

Dr Mahathir, who is chairman of opposition pact Pakatan Harapan, was on stage and taking questions when a slipper was suddenly hurled in his direction, followed by water bottles.

Chairs were thrown about in the hall and flares were lit, causing a scramble.

Pakatan Harapan chairman Dr Mahathir Mohamad speaking on stage during the Nothing To Hide 2.0 forum earlier this evening. Eyewitnesses say Dr Mahathir was unperturbed by objects thrown at him when the forum was disrupted by troublemakers. – The Malaysian Insight pic by Nazir Sufari, August 13, 2017.

Yet, it was not the first time the former prime minister had taken a direct hit. In July 2006 he was pepper-sprayed by businessman Nik Sapeia Nik Yusoff at the Sultan Ismail Petra Airport in Pengkalan Chepa.

The businessman was convicted of causing hurt and sentenced to six months’ jail by a magistrate’s court, but subsequently acquitted by the High Court and Court of Appeal.

But Malaysian politics, while largely spared the mass violence seen in some developing countries, is no stranger to bouts of thuggish behaviour, between political opponents and within ruling coalition parties (see graphic below).

Following the sacking of Anwar Ibrahim from his positions in government and in the party in 1998,  Umno Youth supporters marched to Sri Perdana to demand Dr Mahathir’s resignation. The  Federal Reserve Unit was called, and were pelted with stones and water bottles by the angry mob.

In 2014, a group of Umno members led by Federal Territory Umno Youth chief Mohd Razlan Mohd Rafil threatened to burn down the DAP headquarters in Pudu after accusing the party of insulting Umno.

Dr Syed Husin Ali said there had been instances of people throwing stones, but not flares, at political events.
“What happened on Sunday was very unfortunate and should be condemned,” said the former PKR deputy president.
But the leader declined to state whether violence was now the trend in Malaysian politics.
“It’s too early to draw any conclusions from one case. One sparrow does not a summer make,” the 81-year-old added.
The former Parti Rakyat Malaysia president and sociology lecturer in Universiti Malaya said that there were more pressing issues such as corruption and the 1Malaysia Development Berhad scandal.
DAP adviser Lim Kit Siang was less optimistic and believed that this was a new trend in “rough-and-tumble” politics.
“Yes, there were rowdy scenes, when we went into hardcore or no-go areas like the Felda schemes but nobody assaulted me,” said the 76-year-old politician.
What worries Lim is that the forum was not even held on “hardcore” Umno territory. “It was open to the public, making it more worrying,” he said.
The Gelang Patah MP said that the incident was connected to Umno’s fear that they may lose the next elections.
“They thought with the troubles with PAS they could split the votes and take back Selangor.
“But after Pakatan Harapan’s lineup was announced on July 14, they saw the parties can act together. And with Amanah and Bersatu doing a good job in reaching out to the rural voter, they are worried,” said Lim.

Three youths are in remand after Sunday’s crowd violence, which some Pakatan Harapan leaders have said was instigated by Umno.

It is still unclear what or who had motivated the youths’ actions.

The violence against Dr Mahathir follows several weeks of political mudslinging by Umno leaders, such as party vice-president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and Azeez Rahim who have blasted the former prime minister at division meetings across the country.
Zahid brought up Dr Mahathir’s Indian heritage and also told the elderly politician to sit down and keep quiet. Azeez recounted the former Umno president’s past mistakes during a party  meeting in Baling.

Lee believes such tactics will not play in Umno’s favour.

“Such actions will backfire as more people will become more sympathetic to Dr Mahathir.”

Politicians vilifying each other is nothing new because that is politics. But the line towards inciting violence must not be crossed.
“There’s nothing wrong in vilifying each other but politicians of both divides need to be careful with their words so as not to encourage violence,” said Lee. – August 15, 2017.


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  • Sad state of affairs when the young and impressionable are being taught that it is alright to use violence to silence anyone with a differing views or ideas and even worse when they are being taught that is just fine to attack the aged!

    Posted 6 years ago by Mm p · Reply