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Thursday, December 22, 2016

‘Demos the only way left to voice dissent’

Mahathir says the Dewan Rakyat is useless, the Malay rulers can't help and cops will arrest you if you report against the elite.
PETALING JAYA: Dr Mahathir Mohamad last night made another attempt to explain his transformation from an autocrat who would not tolerate student activism to an elder statesman who encourages it.
He claimed that student activism needed to be supported because street demonstrations had become necessary now that Malaysians had lost all other means of voicing dissent.
Speaking at a forum on the the University and University Colleges Act (UUCA), he said Malaysians could no longer make their choices through Parliament, had lost access to the Malay rulers’ protection and could not feel safe when making a police report against the political elite.
“Today, if you make a police report, you are arrested,” he said, citing the detention of his loyalists Khairuddin Abu Hassan and Mathias Chang after they lodged reports against 1MDB.
“The Dewan Rakyat is useless,” he said in reference to aborted attempts to table a motion of no-confidence in Prime Minister Najib Razak.
“Even the rulers are unable to help,” he added, recalling his failure to get a positive response from the Yang di-Pertuan Agong when he presented the Citizens’ Declaration at a royal audience in October.
He claimed that there was no need for street protests during his era because there were various other ways of expressing dissent.
It was when Mahathir was education minister that the UUCA was amended to virtually outlaw political activism among students.
He defended this by saying that Malay students at the time were not paying attention to their studies.
“Back then, the Chinese and Indians were doing much better and I wanted to restore balance because I knew if there was no balance then this would cause antagonism among the races,” he said.
“Malay students were focusing on other less important things as opposed to studying.
“You need to know your priorities. The priorities today are different from what they were back then.”
Student activist Anis Syafiqah also spoke at last night’s forum. She called for the repeal of the UUCA. “There are too many draconian clauses in the act to waste time amending them,” she said. “We should just find an alternative.”
Mahathir disagreed, saying that the alternative could be even more draconian.
“The ISA (Internal Security Act) was abolished, but now they have the New Security Council Act, which is even worse,” he said. “It has a clause which says that if a person dies while in detention, there cannot be an inquest. Under the ISA, if a person dies, you have to answer to the courts.”
He said that man-made laws could not be perfect, which was why they that to be amended occasionally. -FMT

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