Mukhriz justifies assembly law as investor draw

By Clara Chooi, The Malaysian Insider

Datuk Mukhriz Mahathir claimed today foreign investors “hardly” view governance as a problem in Malaysia and are more concerned with political stability, which he said was damaged in the July 9 Bersih street protest.

The international trade and industry deputy minister gave this as a reason for his support of the prohibition of street protests under the new Peaceful Assembly Bill tabled in Parliament yesterday, dismissing criticisms that the law would only further erode civil freedom.

Mukhriz said foreign investors were more likely to shy away from parking their businesses in Malaysia if street protests were rampant here, leading to the perception that the country is politically unstable.

“When I talk to investors, they hardly ask me about governance and all that… they don’t talk about it.

“Look at the reports we have been getting, the World Economic Forum, World Bank… everyone is saying we are doing great.

“So I wonder where this thought that, supposedly, because of our lack of governance, people are not coming to invest here… to me, that is rubbish,” he told reporters when met on the sidelines of the National SME Development Council (NSDC) meeting here this morning.

Mukhriz related a question posed to him recently by a potential Japanese investor during a trade and investment mission abroad on whether, in view of the chaotic Bersih 2.0 rally, the Malaysian government could guarantee the security of their investment.

“This is a very critical factor for them, for them to commit money, to invest and create jobs and also, to have a lot of spin-offs for our own businesses here.

“You can imagine how difficult it was for me to answer this question… but the point here is that political stability is the number one factor in the minds of investors when they are considering where to invest in,” he said.

Under the Peaceful Assembly Bill (2011) tabled yesterday, street protests would be outlawed along with assemblies taking place in or anywhere within a 50m radius of prohibited areas like schools, hospitals and places of worship.

It also says there must be 30 days’ advance notice for assemblies except for designated areas defined by the home minister. These assemblies can then proceed unless there is objection by the police.

But the proposed law does not apply to election campaigns and labour disputes.

Pakatan Rakyat (PR) lawmakers quickly raised objections against the new law, complaining that it would further erode civil freedom and allow more power for the police to conduct arbitrary arrests on peaceful protestors.

But in dismissing their concerns today, Mukhriz said street protests should not be held at the expense of the rights of others who were opposed to them, such as the traders whose businesses were affected by the July 9 chaos.

He also spoke of recent “revelations” that outside forces were found to have been involved in street demonstrations in other countries and were said to be capitalising on the chaos to their benefit.

“[T]here are foreign forces with ulterior motives using all sorts of methods, including street demos to subvert, to create a lot of chaos and in the end, they benefit.