It is ok to march against Israel, not Sri Lanka, says Syed Hamid

By Lee Wei Lian and Shannon Teoh – MALAYSIAN INSIDER

Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar defended the arrests of leaders of the Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) organised anti-war march last Saturday, pointing out that the Sri Lanka government attacks on the Tamil Tigers should not have been included in the protest.

"If you want to demonstrate in respect of the Palestinian cause, then don't mix it up with the Sri Lanka cause," he said at the sidelines of the special parliamentary session on Gaza today.

"The PSM protests were more for Sri Lanka which is a different cause. We cannot have protests in support of separatists movements. They also used curse words against the police," he told The Malaysian Insider.

"They had many placards in support of separatists in Sri Lanka."

The Home Minister was commenting on why the police allowed a mammoth protest last Friday against Israel's invasion of Gaza, but moved quickly to stop the PSM march.

His remarks are, however, inconsistent with that of the police who claimed that the PSM protesters did not have a permit for the rally, and refused to disperse, while those who protested on Friday had dispersed when asked to by police.

In an immediate response, Klang DAP lawmaker Charles Santiago, who was also among 21 people arrested on Saturday, asked: "Is that worse than burning flags?"

"What is the difference? They both want separate states."

He added that the government should exercise more restraint in the matter as "it was a peaceful demonstration against violence and agitation against innocent people across the world."

DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng today told Parliament that it was not proper for the police to arrest those who were "merely doing their duty."

"They were not against BN, Umno or the Prime Minister but Israeli violence," he said.

However, MCA president Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat, in reply, expressed his shock that Lim was using the conflict as a way to compel people to demonstrate.

"Yes, we can have our own stand to give moral support to the Palestinians but not to use it as a platform for your own political purposes," he said.