15 April 2000

The Commemoration of Black April 14:

Batons and Water Canons Cannot Prevent the Fall of A Dictatorship

The terror tactics of the government were a complete failure as thousands of people defied police orders and gathered at Kuala Lumpur to commemorate the anniversary of "Black April 14". It was a people victory over the culture of fear imposed by the security forces. Against all odds, the public assembly proceeded peacefully-the smears and lies by the authorities about violence and riots initiated by protesters were proven to be simply lies.

It is ironic that Dr. Mahathir has just returned G77 Meeting where national leaders gathered to call for reforms of global order. Dr. Mahathir has once again, proven to be hypocrite by applying double standards in the concept of reforms. In Havana, Dr. Mahathir mimicked eminent world leaders in the call for a new international order that is free from the domination by super powers, yet he is ruling the country with his own iron fists. For the ordinary citizens of Malaysia, rhetoric of freedom from imperialist superpowers has no meaning, unless we are free from domestic autocratic rule. Thus the demand for reforms at the global level must also mean democracy and human rights in the country.

The commemoration of April 14 was an important part of the national struggle for democracy, human rights and rule of law. The gathering to commemorate the event was not sponsored by any political party; rather it was mobilization by consciencetuous Malaysians who refuse to allow our beloved country be destroyed by a single, selfish and egoistic leader.

The objective of the struggles goes, however, beyond toppling Dr. Mahathir. Through the mobilization, citizens are reclaiming our rights to public expression of dissent. Freedom of peaceful assembly is an essential ingredient of a democratic society. To defend democracy, we must actively resist the efforts by Dr. Mahathir regime to reduce democracy into an election ritual every five years.

The unjust sentence on April 14 last year was also more than a case of miscarriage of justice against an innocent individual. It represented the blatant contempt of natural justice. The crude and groundless evidence used to justify the judgement had turned Malaysian judiciary system a laughing stock of the world.

In his desperate attempts to cover up his political and economic corruption, Dr. Mahathir has no qualms to subvert all legal procedures and manipulate any instrument at hand to achieve absolute power. Therefore, Anwar’s defiance of Dr. Mahathir has made him a symbol of the Reformasi (reforms). His courage in exposing Dr. Mahathir’s corruption and practice of cronyism has attracted hundreds of thousands of Malaysian especially young people to rally behind the struggle.

Anwar is, of course, not the only victim of Dr. Mahathir regime. Despite claimed great economic achievements, millions of labouring masses in the rice fields, plantations, construction sites and factories throughout the nation have yet to get fair share of the progress. Dr. Mahathir’s 18 years of rule is typified by the sacking and intimidation of independent judges, arresting and jailing of NGO and political activists, banning and restriction of free press, suppression of trade unions, wanton destruction of environment,….and the list goes on. Although heavily criticized for his human rights records, Dr. Mahathir has successfully concealed his authoritarianism under guise of Asian economic miracle and so-called Eastern values.

What Dr. Mahathir fears most is the rising tied of national consciousness since September 1998. The people across all strata and all ethnic communities are emerging to voice up the call for democratic reforms. In recent years, Dr. Mahathir has witnessed his fellow dictators, one after another succumbed to the people democratic power. Unfortunately, instead of learning from mistakes of others, Dr. Mahathir is stubbornly defending his corrupt autocracy.

To prevent the people mobilization on April 15, the police was instructed a whole range of repressive measures to terrorize the people. The police force has held the whole nation for ransom by imposing emergency-like operations across the country. If he is seriously believed that the commemoration was only supported by "small segment of the society", he would not have ordered the police force to launch a hysterical overkill against the event.

A day before the mobilization of April 15, about a dozen of the opposition activists including Ruslan Kassim (keADILan Information Chief), Mohd.Ezam Mohd. Nor (keADILan Youth Chief), Gobalan Krishnan (keADILan Youth Exco), and several other local leaders like Zamani Wahid, Dr. Hamza, etc. were arrested under preventive detention. Malaysia reveals its trueself police state. For more than 24 hours, police put up security road blocks everywhere and checked all transport leading into the capital city. There have been reports of passengers on train and buses were harassed and even prevented by police to board.

Although the masses were prevented to gather at central point to proceed with the march to the Palace, the police was unable to stop the convergence of crowds at different parts of the city. The nation should be grateful that so many courageous people stood up to confront atrocities. It is shameful to see our royal police forces have deviated from their professional duties and degraded themselves into beating machines. Without the need to elaborate, friends from the press have already captured plenty of evidence of protesters and innocent bystanders violently attacked are abused by security forces, not to mentioned tear gas, mace water canon, and so on.

However the violent beating and dispersal tactics, arrest and detention have not succeeded to intimidate the conviction of the people. The mobilization on April 15 illustrated the people’s determination and need to proceed with struggle for democratic change. Dr. Mahathir and his cronies should nit think people can be herded around by sticks and dogs. Just remember: when the tolerance of people runs out, batons and water canons will not save a dictator from his demise.



Tian Chua

Vice President

Parti Keadilan Nasional