The recipe for survival for any embattled ruling party to stay in power is the same – persuasion or force. If persuasion is not working, then force is the only avenue to deal with dissent. We have seen during the reformasi era how Mahathir used the ISA and public institutions to curb opposition to his rule and we have seen how Najib used the Sedition Act to deal with dissent in his time. Now it seems that the PN Government is becoming increasingly repressive by the hour.
It is a norm that police will call up participants or organisers of public rallies to record 112 statements. But it is abnormal to call members of SUHAKAM and the Bar Council monitoring these assemblies to be called to record their statements as well. This is an indication that the repression level of the ruling party has been upgraded.
It is abnormal for the police to go and check if the address that participants gave in their 112 statements are genuine. This seems to be a new practice by the police. After the recent Kita Lawan Assembly, the Dang Wangi police district recorded statements of organisers and participants. Then an additional instruction supposedly came from the KL Contingent –IPK Criminal division where policemen were told to verify the addresses of the participants. Three to four policeman were dispatched to track down the houses of participants to check if they stayed at the addresses. While we have a serious problem of doing contact tracing for Covid close contacts, the Government has resources to do contact tracing for those involved in a peaceful demonstration.
The ROS definition of “essential”
The Registrar of Societies (ROS) who on July 19 told UMNO that it had no issues on the postponement of the UMNO Party election suddenly said yesterday that UMNO’s decision to postpone its party elections as invalid. You wouldn’t need a rocket scientist to figure this out. History will explain how the ROS allowed Mahathir’s UMNO Baru and yet sidelined his opposition who tried to form UMNO Malaysia. That is why the Government needs a month to hold the vote of confidence. In the next one month, the ROS will be busy.
Now suddenly during the height of the Pandemic, the ROS has an issue with the UMNO election. This is the same ROS who told PKR to postpone its virtual congress in June 2021 saying it is not allowed because it is a “non-essential social activity” according to the National Security Council. Imagine postponing a virtual congress because of the pandemic and now questioning UMNO’s decision to postpone its election as invalid. Suddenly UMNO ‘selection has become an essential activity for the ROS during the pandemic.
In the next one month the Government will be busy. Police will be be busy contact tracing activists while others will be busy contact tracing MPs to seek their support to make up the numbers.
The only numbers the rakyat is concerned about is the daily Covid deaths and cases reported. It is in times like this that we hope that we have strong independent institutions who will focus and perform their duties on the people’s real needs. Instead, now that which is essential gets ignored in a power struggle.