It is counter-productive of the present government under Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak to use the strong arm approach in dealing with dissent, former senior minister Rafidah Aziz warned today.
Listing the spate of arrests and detentions of individuals of late for a variety of reasons, such as dropping balloons from above or making police reports on what they perceived as irregularities and distortions, Rafidah said it was clear that there now is intolerance of any dissent from anyone.
“Dissent has now been interpreted to be ‘anti-government’, and ‘anti-leadership’, and particular sections of existing laws are being cited to justify the arrests.
“It is quite disconcerting that there should be such complete intolerance of dissent… at a time when there are issues that plague the people and worry them.
“Especially if that dissent is indeed reflective of the feelings of a vast majority. And now, with the spate of arrests, the world is watching...,” Rafidah, a former international trade and industry minister and former Umno Wanita chief, opined in a Facebook posting.
She was commenting on the arrest of former Umno Batu Kawan division vice-chief Khairuddin Abu Hassan ( photo ) and his lawyer Matthias Chang, who was once former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad's long-time political secretary, under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012.
Khairuddin and Chang were today charged under Section 124L of the Penal Code, with attempting to sabotage the country's banking and financial services.
Rafidah also noted that there appeared to be some selective and discriminatory approaches in hauling up these individuals, which saw action being taken against them.
'Leaders should not be untouchables'
There are those who have clearly been aggressively fanning racial sentiments and who appear, to the majority, to be tolerated, she added.
“Certainly, anyone who jeopardises national interests cannot be tolerated. As also those who, by their words and actions are likely to cause social unrest and interracial tension, should be hauled in and taken action upon.
“These people are anti-society and a threat to the Malaysian unity that we seek. But there must be a line drawn between questioning the actions of leaders and making police reports on issues that are deemed to be of public interest to seek answers,” she said.
She warned that today's leaders must not be seen, let alone be “untouchables”.
“In this day and age, knowledge and information can be obtained almost instantaneously. Nothing can be hidden or swept under the proverbial carpet. Cross-border information flows ensure that the people will eventually know the facts.
“It would do the government much good if dissent can be viewed positively… to appreciate and understand that not everyone will agree with everything that is being done, or with what is happening,” Rafidah said.
Nowadays, it seemed that no one should question or criticise (the government) or those doing so would be viewed as doing so at their own peril.
“The laws in hand will be used. No one should touch leaders… lest it all gets lumped under the ‘anti government’ connotation,” she said in reference to the recent spate of arrests and investigations classified by the police as activities detrimental to democracy.
Besides Khairuddin and Chang, whose arrests were made under Sosma for activities detrimental to parliamentary democracy, many politicians from the opposition and students as well are being investigated under Section 124B and other similar sections of the Penal Code.