Anifah vows quit if BN silences public dissent

Anifah (second right) meets with anti-ISA protesters outside the Malaysian High Commission in London, August 8, 2010. — Picture by IF Zakaria

LONDON, Aug 9 — Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman yesterday moved to quell concerns that the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) was clamping down on civil protests, saying that he would quit the Cabinet if this were true.

On the back of police action against anti-Internal Security Act (ISA) gatherings last week and a recent clampdown on opposition newspapers, he told Malaysians at a meet-and-greet session at the Malaysian High Commission here that the police had acted on information that there were agent provocateurs who intended to subvert the rallies for their own purposes.

The Kimanis MP also admitted that as BN could not be sure of staying in power after the next general election, he would not support a draconian administration as he would not want to be similarly victimised.

“There is no conspiracy. I would not be a member of Cabinet if I thought so because tomorrow, I may not be a minister… in a few years, we may not be in power,” he said to just under 100 attendees.

“What happens if we do things we should not have done? It can happen to us as well. There must not be any discrimination or victimisation. I promise not just to you but to myself, I will not remain in Cabinet one day longer if I find there is hanky-panky going on in the government. It is not right morally,” Anifah said.

Anifah, who was known as a maverick and outspoken backbencher, also insisted that when “40 to 50 people gather, the issue is not about being afraid to lose power” nor was it the case that “we do not allow certain individuals to campaign” as the results of Election 2008, which saw BN cede their customary two-thirds parliamentary majority and five state governments, was proof that “democracy exists.”

Before beginning his speech, he had met over 50 protesters from the London-based Abolish ISA group outside the high commission for more than 15 minutes and explained why Malaysia would not repeal the ISA but amend it. He also assured them after receiving their written petition that “dissent doesn’t mean you will get arrested.”

“On the surface, even I asked, ‘why don’t we allow candlelight vigils?’” he said, referring to the vigils on August 1, the 50th anniversary of the law that provides for detention without trial, that saw 30 people in Selangor and four in Penang detained by the police.

“There were people, not from the protest groups, who wanted to make use of the gathering for their own purposes. The police were compelled to prohibit them (the protesters) from going through this vigil because there was information that something untoward may happen,” he claimed.

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