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Malaysian ruling coalition steps up "riots" warning in media

Date: 22 Nov 1999
Time: 19:15:54


Malaysian ruling coalition steps up "riots" warning in media blitz

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 22 (AFP) - Malaysia's ruling coalition Monday stepped up its pre-election advertising blitz, with more photos of riot scenes and text directly naming the opposition alliance as to blame for the unrest.

The adverts in selected English and Chinese-language papers included a photograph of an unidentified man landing a flying kick on a police car during protests by sympathisers of jailed former deputy premier Anwar Ibrahim in Kuala Lumpur earlier this year.

"If they can attack a police car today, will they attack your car tomorrow?" asked the headline.

Supporters of Anwar, the opposition Alternative Front's candidate for premier in the November 29 general election, staged demonstrations after he was jailed in April for six years for abuse of power.

The opposition Democratic Action Party (DAP), part of the Alternative Front, has lodged police complaints against the eye-catching advertisements.

It accuses Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad's National Front coalition of trying to scare ethnic Chinese voters into voting for the status quo.

The National Justice Party (Keadilan) led by Anwar's wife Wan Azizah Wan Ismail said Monday it would also file a police complaint against the "racially provocative advertisements."

DAP leader Lim Kit Siang told AFP he lodged another police complaint Monday about the latest ads, which were more outspoken than a series which ran Sunday.

He acknowledged that the "incendiary, inflammatory and irresponsible" campaign was hurting the DAP's chances and appealed to Mahathir to stop what he called incitements to fear.

Lim repeated allegations made earlier by Keadilan that the violence during the pro-Anwar protests was largely orchestrated by agent provocateurs organised by the government.

He questioned why, to his knowledge, no one had been arrested or charged in connection with incidents depicted in the photographs, such as the kicking of the police car.

The advertisements charged that the opposition alliance had "no respect for the law, no fear of the authorities (and) no regard for the safety of others.

"The question that remains in our minds is this: if these people have no respect for the law today, what is going to happen tomorrow? Will they be tolerant of your rights, your property or your safety?"

Another advertisement had a photograph of a deserted Kuala Lumpur business centre with a report that many small traders lost not only their business but also suffered damage to their shops during riots.

Since Mahathir announced the November 29 elections, the National Front has been running in the largely pro-government press a series of advertisements trumpeting social and economic achievements.

But Monday's riot advertisements in the Sun English-language daily and Chinese newspapers were specifically aimed at the business-linked Chinese voters, observers said.

The National Front's three largest parties are race-based, representing majority Malays, Chinese and Indians.

This year's disturbances were the biggest since racial clashes in 1969 directed against the more prosperous Chinese community in which at least 200 died.

Political analysts say Mahathir is more eager than ever to woo Chinese voters after the sacking and jailing of Anwar split the ethnic Malay community.

Last changed: November 22, 1999