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Malaysian opposition complains over ruling party's riot warning

Date: 21 Nov 1999
Time: 22:25:52


Malaysian opposition complains over ruling party's riot warning

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 21 (AFP) - A Malaysian opposition leader Sunday complained to police over the "politics of fear" after the ruling coalition started a media advertising blitz predicting riots if its opponents come to power in upcoming polls.

Another opposition party said the "rioters" pictured in the full-page advertisements were actually plainclothes policemen.

The ruling National Front (Barisan Nasional) took unusually outspoken adverts in several pages of newspapers Sunday, showing photos of street unrest sparked by the arrest and jail treatment of ex-deputy premier Anwar Ibrahim.

"Don't let hatred win," read one banner headline over a photo of a crowd hurling stones. "Vote for peace and stability. Vote Barisan Nasional."

Over other riot photos were the messages "Don't let violence triumph," "Don't let anarchy rule" and "Don't let mob rule lead us."

In the November 29 election the National Front is for the first time facing a united opposition Alternative Front whose candidate for prime minister is Anwar.

The Alternative Front comprises the National Justice Party led by Anwar's wife, the Parti Islam SeMalaysia, the Democratic Action Party (DAP) and the Malaysian People's Party.

DAP chief Lim Kit Siang told reporters he had lodged complaints with police that the ads constituted a crime under the Election Offences Act 1954. He said they also breached the penal code and Sedition Act.

"They sought to intimidate the 9.6 million voters and obstruct them from freely voting without coercion or duress," Lim said.

He called the advertisements "the most incendiary, inflammatory and irresponsible political advertisements that have ever appeared in the past 10 general elections in 42 years."

Lim has already accused the ruling coalition of raising the spectre of race riots directed against the Chinese community on May 13, 1969 -- the most traumatic event in the multiracial state since independence in 1957.

The National Front is playing heavily on its record of stability and racial harmony in its campaign.

"It is most disturbing that while in the past the May 13 spectre is invoked only in the last few days (of an election cmpaign), this time the politics of fear, intimidation and blackmail appears to be the centrepiece of the Barisan Nasional campaign to retain its two-thirds majority," Lim said.

A National Justice Party spokesman, Raja Petra Kamarudin, told AFP: "We know for a fact they (some of the rioters depicted) are plainclothes police Special Branch.

Raja Petra said some of those involved in street demonstrations after the sentencing of Anwar in April had identified plainclothese officers provoking unrest.

He said the officers dressed in a uniform style. "They have everything but 'Special Branch' written on their chests."

Raja Petra said plaintclothes police had also been seen among demonstrators at the national mosque in September during a protest at alleged attempts to poison Anwar with arsenic in custody.

Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad sacked his heir apparent in September 1998. He was detained later that month after leading mass anti-government protests.

Anwar was jailed for six years in April for abusing his power to cover up allegations of homosexual and heterosexual misconduct. He is now on trial for sodomy, which is punishable by up to 20 years.

He says he is the victim of a top-level political conspiracy but the government says the courts are independent.

Mahathir had frequently accused Anwar's supporters of plotting riots if they fared badly in the polls. Anwar's treatment has split the ethnic Malay community and analysts say the ruling coalition is trying hard to capture the votes of the Chinese to compensate.

Raja Petra said the adverts were an attempt "to scare the Chinese". He said government publicity was also harking back to riots against the Chinese community in Indonesia in 1998.

Last changed: November 21, 1999