KOTA KINABALU: Former chief minister Yong Teck Lee has questioned whether there has been a breakdown in trust and confidence between Chief Minister Shafie Apdal and the police following the barring of Special Branch officers from Warisan press conferences.
“As far as I know, the SB head is a full member of the Sabah State Security Council. Isn’t the SB a key organ in protecting Sabah from security threats?
“If the chief minister, who is the chairman of the security council, has lost confidence in the SB, then it does not bode well for the security of Sabah,” the Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) president said in a statement here today.
Yong said he was surprised by the ban because press conferences are open events where “anything and everything that happens and is said may be reported for public information”.
“While it is true that journalists may pose difficult questions to ministers, it is the duty of the ministers to respond,” he said.
Warisan vice-president Junz Wong had said that Special Branch officers would not be allowed into any press conference if they were there uninvited, adding they should request to attend the event and also identify themselves.
Wong, who is also the state agriculture and food industry minister, said it had been the norm in the past for the police to send SB personnel to cover government and opposition events but Warisan had decided to stop it.
However, Inspector-General of Police Abdul Hamid Bador defended the presence of the SB at government events, saying they are only there to ensure public peace and safety.
Hamid said the SB had no interest if a party held activities on its own premises but that they would attend if an event is held in a public place.
Yong said political events, including press conferences, can impact security and public order because of the possibility of open incitement.
“The police, as the main custodian of public order, must be able to predict with some degree of certainty whether an event or speech might seriously upset some sections of society to the extent that potential violence might be triggered.
“As the inspector-general of police has rightly pointed out, in the case of closed-door meetings and briefings, unauthorised persons, including the police and media, may be asked to leave.
“As for SAPP, a few years ago at Tenom, we had politely but firmly asked SB officers to leave a closed-door party dialogue session. The officers obliged and left without any fuss,” he said.