MP SPEAKS It was an isolated incident of a smoke bomb and a handful of unflattering graffiti about the police.
But it was a peaceful May Day rally, with 20,000 people converging to protest against the Goods And Services Tax (GST), celebrate workers day, and demand for better working conditions and to tick off the government for its bad policies.
International Workers Day is celebrated all over the world. And yet the police saw it fit to haul in scores of people, detain them overnight and then remand some of them for further investigations.
I have said it before and I will say it again - this is blatant abuse of police power and a crafty strategy to instil fear among the people.
Clearly the police only target opposition political leaders, civil society members and people from various non-government organizations.
And they have long disregarded the fact that freedom of expression and assembly is enshrined in our federal constitution.
The quick arrests signal an intolerant government, which is terrified of the people. It caricatures the shrinking powers of the head of state, who is aware of the fact that his leadership lacks legitimacy.
Najib couldn't care less
The abuse of police powers also demonstrates that premier Najib Razak’s government cares two hoots about the people or their issues.
The increasing cost of living, escalating prices of essential goods, and the GST-linked price increases deal a further blow to the middle and working classes.
The people who took to the streets on Friday did so to bring these pressing issues to the attention of the government so that necessary steps could be taken to alleviate the sufferings of the poor.
Instead of welcoming feedback and respecting the hopes of the people, the protesters are met with the highhandedness of the police.
There is a yawning gulf between the aspirations of the people who took to the streets on Friday and reality.
If the government were sincere about its ‘People First’ rallying cry, it would reprimand the top cop for his bullying ways. And it would listen to the peoples’ woes.
It certainly would not throw people in jail or charge them with exercising their freedom as guaranteed in the constitution.
CHARLES SANTIAGO is Klang MP.