Public safety is the top priority
Before Opposition pundits jump on the bandwagon as oppressed freedom fighters screaming protests against the police for calling the crowds to disperse from PKR’s ceramah on the night of 24 April 2007, one has to study the legalities of such ceramahs.
Did PKR organizers apply for a legitimate police permit to hold not one but three ceramah’s last night? It is not the system that has failed. It is the individual in charge of applying for the police permit.
At any occasion, no matter how simple, for example, even caroling around the neighbourhood, a police permit is required. What more, during a political campaigning period, particular when the Ijok by-election fell back-to-back with the Machap by-election?
Public security first
Given the current state of high-stakes emotions unfurling, the regrettable bottle launching fracas on Nomination Day, 19 April 2007, one should read the police’s actions as safeguarding the safety of the general population at large as its main priority during this hotly contested campaigning season.
With BN’s ceramah which had obtained a legitimate gathering permit situated a mere 50 metres away, there were reasonable anxieties from all present of a situation being stirred out of control spiraling into a windfall of chaos as the adrenalin got charged up.
Dispersing the crowd which had gathered illegally was one solution of diffusing the high-wire tension dilemma which may have turned into a live wire debacle. The police’s decision also prevented any arrests being made. Perhaps an unpopular decision to some, but do consider it as deciding between the devil and the deep blue sea. Surely, Malaysians do not desire to experience an unruly experience of supporters from each side physically battling out.
Huge crowds at Anwar’s ceramahs do not mean that their numbers translate into votes. Did the audience consist of home fans or were they outstation Anwar supporters who tag behind the overly ambitious former Deputy Prime Minister who was imprisoned on corruption charges whenever there is some by-election to enlarge an otherwise nondescript crowd? A case to point would be Machap by-elections which was held only two weeks ago on 19 April 2007. On the eve of Machap’s polling day, the crowd surged to nearly 2,000 people at the DAP ceramah which saw PKR heavy weights ranting against the incumbent government at Melaka Pindah by the time of Anwar’s arrival. However, when the ballot slips were tabulated the next day and despite the voter turn out of 72%, victorious BN was returned with 84% of the people’s choice against the paltry 13% votes secured by DAP. The percentage won by BN was higher than the 83% scored in 2004.
Often times, first-timers appear at PKR ceramahs out of curiousity expecting controversies and rhetoric given the Anwar personae, and that’s just it. Once they discover that Opposition ceramahs are nothing more than frustrated characters venting steam targeted at the government, the votes registered at the polls reveal the dichotomic abyss between Opposition speakers and their audience.