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Lawyers: Forum chaos an escalation of violence due to past inaction

 | August 13, 2017

Prominent lawyers Eric Paulsen and Ambiga Sreenevasan condemn attack during Nothing to Hide 2.0 forum, saying it is a continuation of 'thuggish' behaviour which went unchecked previously.

What were the culprits trying to accomplish, asks Paulsen.

What were the culprits trying to accomplish, asks Eric Paulsen.

PETALING JAYA: Lawyer-activist Eric Paulsen believes the chaos that broke out at a forum attended by Dr Mahathir Mohamad, is an “escalation of violence” due to inaction by the authorities in the past.

He condemned the direct attack on the former prime minister, who was accompanied by his wife Siti Hasmah Mohd Ali at the Nothing to Hide 2.0 forum in Shah Alam today.

“It’s one thing to heckle a 92-year-old, but another to throw projectiles at him and also Siti Hasmah, who was on stage with him,” said Paulsen, who is the executive director of Lawyers for Liberty.

“What were the culprits trying to accomplish?” the human rights lawyer asked, adding that the authorities must view this as a serious incident and take action against the culprits.

He said the perpetrators had committed several criminal offences and can be investigated and charged with rioting, creating public mischief, assault, attempted arson and the possession of illegal weapons, like flares.

“If this happened at any event in which a minister was present, I’m sure the police and Attorney-General would waste no time in coming down hard on the perpetrators.”

Paulsen said the bigger question was why an escalation of violence like this was happening.

“To me, people have been emboldened because, in the past, acts of violence against opposition leaders or provocative actions of Umno members haven’t been taken seriously.”

Paulsen cited the attack on Amanah leader Khalid Samad on Parliament grounds last year as well as the intimidating tactics employed by Sungai Besar Umno division chief Jamal Yunos in the run up to last year’s Bersih 5 rally.

“No real action was taken by the authorities then, and this is akin to closing one eye which emboldens those who seek to create trouble.”

Ambiga: Enough is enough. This has to stop.

Ambiga : Enough is enough. This has to stop.

Meanwhile, former Bersih 2.0 chairperson Ambiga Sreenevasan said the incident was reminiscent of the same thuggish behaviour exhibited during the last general election.

“It doesn’t take a genius to figure out who the culprits behind this incident are.

“This has to stop. Enough is enough,” she told FMT, adding that violence cannot be condoned under any circumstances.

The human rights activist also called for the public to reject such behaviour, and for leaders to disassociate themselves from it, as well as condemn the incident.

“The police must act swiftly and decisively.”

Meanwhile, Asian Strategy and Leadership Institute (Asli) chairman Ramon Navaratnam said the incident was unacceptable.

This does not reflect moderation, it is not the Malaysian way, says Asli's Navaratnam.

This does not reflect moderation. It is not the Malaysian way, says Asli’s Ramon Navaratnam.

“This does not reflect moderation, it is not the Malaysian way.

“The police must exercise great diligence in apprehending the culprits and preventing future incidences.”

Navaratnam said that should the authorities fail to act fast, it will erode public confidence.

Earlier this evening chaos erupted at the Nothing to Hide 2.0 forum when projectiles with a pungent chemical odour were hurled while Mahathir was addressing the audience.

The Dewan Raja Muda Musa hall was filled with smoke and punches were said to have been traded as PPBM members rushed onto the stage to protect the 92-year-old chairman of PPBM and Pakatan Harapan.

The incident occurred after a participant questioned Mahathir about the Memali incident in which saw 14 villagers and four policemen were killed in a confrontation between the police and followers of a Muslim scholar in November 1985 in Kedah, when he was prime minister.


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