The police’s application to obtain a restriction order for Dong Zong’s planned congress violates their rights to freedom of speech, the DAP said today.
Following a court order barring Dong Jiao Zong’s closed-door congress on Jawi, the police must now take action against groups that have threatened racial riots should the Chinese educationist group go ahead with the event, said Lim Kit Siang.
Police obtained an injunction against the gathering organised by the United Chinese School Committees’ Association of Malaysia (Dong Zong) which is opposed to the implementation on grounds that it could cause unrest.
“Police have now a greater responsibility to show they are even-handed and take action against those who had completely without cause threatened unrest over the closed-door Dong Zong meeting,” LIM said in a statement today.
Some Malay groups had threatened to confront the Dong Zong gathering if it proceeded, including Angkatan Gerak Minda Malaysia (Agra) led by Bersatu Youth exco member Mohd Ashraf Mustaqim Badrul Munir.
“The police should not have banned the Dong Zong closed-door meeting over the Jawi issue in Chinese and Tamil primary schools although the police were under intense pressure because of irresponsible and incendiary threats by extremist quarters,” Lim said.
Deputy Penang Chief Minister II P Ramasamy said the Kajang police’s move to obtain a court order against the Dong Zong’s gathering on grounds of racial tension was “regrettable”.
“The cancellation of the Dong Jiao Zong congress represents a regrettable episode in our march towards democracy, freedom and justice.
“I am not sure how the PH coalition that had so magnificently built up against Barisan Nasional can politically recover from having lost its voice to extremists and troublemakers,” he said in a statement this morning.
Ramasamy said he is disappointed that Dong Jiao Zong has been denied its democratic right to hold the congress, and slammed PH leaders over the silence in the face of threats by right-wing groups.
“It is not the racism or viciousness of extremist groups that bothers me, but the silence of the vast majority, (who should) speak up…to drown out the diabolical voices of hatred, racism and religious extremism.
“These racist, mischievous groups must be relishing the thought that a few extreme remarks could do wonders in the country,” Ramasamy said.
He added it is unfortunate that PH ministers and leaders have hardly commented on, much less defended, the event, even after the court decision yesterday.
“This was a kind of over-imaginative enterprise without any real basis but brought about by the Malay right groups who threatened that if the Chinese congress proceeded, there might be chaos in the country.
“The police, rather than taking action against the perpetrators of false and hate news, took the easy way out by seeking a court to cancel the congress,” he said.
“Really, nothing would have happened if the in-door congress had taken place. There was nothing racial or incendiary about the proposed congress. It was all about discussing the introduction of Jawi script in vernacular schools, the role of the parent-teacher associations, the school boards and other issues.”
Ramasamy said the ban happened under the Pakatan Harapan government which had promised openness and freedom.
He also blamed Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad for casting aspersions on the gathering.
“The Dong Zong congress on Jawi script would not have gathered so much opposition if the prime minister had not cast negative aspersions,” he said.
“His remark that the Chinese congress might give rise to serious opposition amongst the Malays could have possibly emboldened the Malay right-wing groups to launch their racist attacks against Dong Zong.
“In these attacks, some of them went too far by invoking the repeat of the racial riots of May 13, 1969.
“I am not saying that police should not have sought a court ban, but they should have studied the matter further before they pressed the panic button.”
Meanwhile, DAP National Socialist Youth (DAPSY) chief Howard Lee claimed authorities had gone against article 10 (1) (a) which states that every citizen has the right to freedom of speech and expression and (b) all citizens have the right to assemble peaceably and without arms.
“While the police have the right to take a view on policy and security risks, it should not take actions tantamount to curb freedom of speech, especially when it is over a matter of public policy,” Lee said in a statement.
He added that the federal government has been engaging with Dong Zong at several levels over its planned Chinese Organisation Congress (COC) which was scheduled to be held today.
“The police’s decision to apply for the restriction order sets a dangerous precedence for Malaysia Baru and is nothing short of an overreaction.
“They (police) should be protecting Dong Zong’s right to assemble peacefully, just like the organisers of Kongres Maruah Melayu were protected. The right to differ between citizens is the backbone of any democracy,” LEE said.
It was reported yesterday that Islamist party PAS lambasted Dong Zong for allegedly behaving unethically in a multi-ethnic society, ahead of the COC.
PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang had warned the ethnic Chinese group to remember that its members are living in “a Malay world”, and therefore should not overstep its purported boundaries.
PAS’ ulama wing Nik Muhammad Zawawi Salleh labelled Dong Jiao Zong as “anti-national” and a racist organisation for planning this weekend’s protest against the teaching of the jawi script in vernacular schools.
In an open letter, PAS information chief Kamaruzaman Mohamad had also urged the Home Ministry to ban Dong Zong.
Ahead of its planned congress today, Dong Zong had released a 16-page digital booklet in Bahasa Malaysia which offers a detailed explanation on its stand over the introduction of Jawi script lessons in vernacular schools.
The booklet entitled ‘The Jawi Script Issue: Defending the rights of School Boards to Manage Vernacular Schools’ discusses reasons for its continuing objections towards the introduction of Jawi script in the Bahasa Melayu subject.
In the booklet, it also claimed that the Cabinet and the Education Ministry are ignoring the rights and powers of the school boards and are refusing to include them in the decision-making process over the introduction.
The booklet also highlighted Dong Jiao Zong’s repeated attempts to engage the Education Ministry on the issue of the Chinese schools’ boards involvement in the decision-making process but have failed to get a response.
It explained how the Education Act 1996 provides for the school boards’ role in determining policy in vernacular schools but is being violated.