Better Beer Festival: Security threat real or imagined?

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By P Ramasamy

MCA, like the other component parties of Barisan Nasional (BN), says one thing before cabinet meetings and another after.

Before this week’s cabinet meeting, MCA president Liow Tiong Lai was very vociferous in his criticism of Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) for rejecting the application for the hosting of the Better Beer Festival in Kuala Lumpur next month.

He went on record saying that DBKL should respect the rights of non-Muslims and not pander to the emotions and concerns of those with political and religious motives.

However, in a 360-degree shift following the cabinet meeting, he has now changed his tune about the beer festival. He told the press that he was satisfied that the festival was rejected not because of religious or political reasons, but because it posed a major security threat.

To quote Liow: “I am satisfied with the information given during the meeting (cabinet) and as a responsible party and government, the safety of the public has always been given top priority.”

While he had earlier criticised DBKL, after the cabinet meeting he defended the local authority for making the right decision, a decision based on security concerns.

MCA’s harmony bureau chief Ti Lan Ker backed Liow’s decision, saying that security matters cannot be taken lightly.

Liow also took a dig at DAP for politicising the matter. He said unlike DAP, which would go to any lengths for political capital, MCA as a responsible party must take the security concerns of the public seriously.

The matter of the beer festival is another issue that has not gone down well with non-Malays in the country. Many are perturbed that a harmless festival could be cancelled just because some Muslim groups were not happy with the event.

Whether there was a security threat to the event or not seems rather unclear. However, the manner in which groups opposed to the event politicised the matter lends some credence to the fact that a “security threat” could have been invented to justify the cancellation of the event.

But unfortunately, political parties like MCA which are supposed to represent the non-Malays seem to be hiding under the mask of “security threats” to justify the actions of DBKL.

If security threats could be invoked to cancel public events, there is a real possibility that future public events could also be cancelled on the same grounds.

Security threats posed by terrorist organisations cannot be taken lightly. But at the same time, popular public events cannot be rejected or cancelled by invoking security threats to camouflage the real intentions.

MCA can give all the reasons in the world for the cancellation of the public event, but the Chinese community is not prepared to accept its justifications.

P Ramasamy is deputy chief minister II of Penang.

The views expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.