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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Is Musa clamping down on opposition?

Lahad Datu police chief Shumsuddin Mat has slammed Silam PKR division for its 'unwarranted' criticism of the police.

LAHAD DATU: Is the Umno-led Barisan Nasional government tightening its grip on opposition gatherings in Sabah?

The heavy presence of police at a recent PKR dinner gathering here seems to point in that direction.
Already speculations abound that the government has “directed” the police to deny the opposition permits for such events.

The conspicuous presence of police at a PKR dinner function here has further compounded talks that Chief Minister Musa Aman’s government is strangling political activities, especially in the east coast district of the state, which the opposition is eyeing.
The latest event which saw police “intervention” was the Silam PKR division’s “Meet the party leaders” dinner.

Describing the the large police presence at the weekend dinner as “harassment”, Silam deputy chairman Laksun Injil said “there was no need for such heavy-handedness”.

“It was a peaceful dinner gathering. It was simply harassment.

“The large police presence at the function caused several guests to leave. They were fearful that police action will be taken against them,” he said.

According to Injil, they applied for a permit to hold the event to officially launch the party’s manifesto booklet in preparation for the 13th general election during the “Meet the party leaders” session.

But the police did not issue them a permit. They, however, allowed the dinner to go ahead.

Criticising the Lahad Datu police for not approving their application, Injil said: “I don’t know why they refused us a permit when they granted Kunak division permit for a similar event.

“It’s all very confusing.”

The confusion forced PKR to postpone the launching of its manifesto booklet to the next day at a party member’s house and the guests included Ansari Abdullah, Thamrin Jaini and other party leaders.

Unwarranted criticism

Meanwhile, Lahad Datu district police chief, Supt Shumsudin Mat, denied that police had been “high-handed” in their decision.

He said that Injil’s criticism of the police was unwarranted as they were merely doing their job.

He added that it is the responsibility of the police to safeguard the interest of the people regardless of who they support.

“It is normal for police to dispatch a team to any political gathering for public safety reasons.

“The same also applies to the ruling BN party gatherings.

“Furthermore, it was them (PKR) who told us that the dinner would cause unhappiness to a certain group of people, particularly from BN component parties.

“As such, it was only logical for us to send our men to prevent any untoward incident during the dinner.

“We even dispatched a team of marine police to patrol the waters as the venue was held at a seafood restaurant.

“Our intention was purely crime prevention. We never harassed anyone that night,” Shumsuddin said.

Safety aspects

Shumsuddin also said that police rejected the application for the permit because of the timeframe.

He said application for permits for gatherings must be submitted at least 21 days before the date of the event.

“Police need to examine the safety aspects of the gathering such as the time and venue, people’s reaction and so on before giving the green light.

“Kunak may have had a better scenario so the police there gave their approval, but here it is different.”

However, he said that police allowed them to hold the dinner on condition that no banners would be put up.

The PKR leaders used the function to interact with east coast residents and to discuss problems they are facing.

Thamrin received a memorandum on Native Customary Rights (NCR) land from some villagers and promised them that the party would do what it could to protect their land rights.

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