©The Sun (Used by permission)
by Giam Say Khoon
KUALA LUMPUR (Dec 5, 2007): The government should manage demonstrations properly and not use force, as this will not help to solve the real problems at hand, said Datuk Zaid Ibrahim.
Zaid, the Barisan Nasional member of Parliament for Kota Baru, said he expected ethnic and religious issues to be among the serious issues to be discussed in the next general election.
He said that among them would be the issues raised by the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) demonstration in Kuala Lumpur on Nov 25.
He said this in his talk on the issues to be expected in the next polls, presented in the Rotary Club’s weekly meeting today.
Zaid observed that peaceful demonstrations were part of the democratic process.
"It is actually a small thing to me and I wish that after 50 years of independence, we will be able to manage this thing quite easily. To demonstrate and protest in a peaceful way is part and parcel of a democratic country," he said.
He added that the police could have told the people which road to take and how the organiser should control and limit the crowd so that the demonstration can be properly managed.
"But our response has always been 'No', even the Bar Council has abandoned the walk to celebrate International Human Rights Day (Monday, Dec 10).
"I was part of the walk last year and the year before. It was just a walk. We were just walking around the Lake Garden and it was good exercise," he said.
Zaid also said sensitive issues such as the demolition of temples must be handled with care, and overlooking that would risk provoking extreme reactions from the people who were affected by it.
He said "using force and power", the Internal Security Act or revoking the protesters’ citizenship would not help the situation or address the real issues faced by the people.
"We have to remember that we are a multi-cultural and multi-racial country and if we, all the time, see it as a Malay, Chinese or Indian issue, we are not going to see the real problem.
"Somebody said the Malays are worse than the Indians as only 2.9% of the Indians are poor, compared with 8% of the Malays who are poor. It is not going to help to say who has the problems. So why are we are still responding to the issues in such a negative way, why do we need to remind ourselves and start comparing ourselves as Chinese, Indians and Malays?" he asked.
"Let's not talk about race and religion. Let's just see things as what they are, economic issues and the sensitivity of the people."
Zaid said the nation needed a people-oriented government, which he described as one which would listen to even the most ridiculous demand from the people.
"Some even said we need new faces in the cabinet and I think so too," he added.
He said he was often asked why he joined the BN, and his reply was that the BN concept to get all the people together was a wonderful concept although it was not easy to achieve.
"You have a wonderful model and you just need to think, to adjust and change from within. So I criticise the BN because I want it to become better," he said, adding that the BN should be driven more as a coalition and not by one party or Umno.