Carolyn Hong – Straits Times
Kuala Lumpur. The Barisan Nasional government plans to release an official video of April’s electoral reform rally that ended in chaos, as it continues to struggle with the fallout five weeks later.
It will release the video compilation this week, which is expected to continue to push the message that opposition figures were responsible for the violence.
Dozens of people were hurt in the rally on April 28, which brought tens of thousands of Malaysians into the streets. The rally started peacefully but turned violent after protesters breached a barrier and police retaliated with tear gas and water cannon.
Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said a compilation of the footage will be available on the ministry’s website beginning on Wednesday.
“The video is to show what really happened in the rally, so the rakyat [people] can make their own judgments after viewing it, and not be influenced by the narrow opinions of others,” he said on Sunday.
With the next general election imminent, both the government and opposition are blaming each other for the violence.
The way the authorities reacted to the rally has affected Prime Minister Najib Razak, with his approval rating slipping from 69 percent in February to 65 percent last month, according to a survey by the independent Merdeka Center. His support among Chinese Malaysians plunged, but went up among the Malays.
The government started the ball rolling when it charged opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim and his righthand man Azmin Ali two weeks ago with instigating their supporters to breach police barricades.
It also sued rally leader Ambiga Sreenevasan for damage caused to police vehicles during the rally.
Ambiga has said it was the firing of teargas by police that triggered the chaos, which degenerated into violence.
Last week, former premier Mahathir Mohamad weighed in, writing in his blog that the rally was “preparation to reject the general election results if the opposition failed to take power.”
Over the weekend, Malaysian King Abdul Halim Mu’adzam Shah joined the refrain, warning Malaysians not to be “hoodwinked by external negative elements who are trying to meddle in the country’s affairs, including acculturating street demonstrations.”
Both Datuk Seri Najib and his deputy Muhyiddin Yassin echoed similar views.
The Prime Minister said on Sunday that the government will not compromise in quashing any threat to public order. Tan Sri Muhyiddin said the Barisan Nasional government was bracing itself for the possibility of violence from the opposition if the latter lost the election.
Reprinted courtesy of Straits Times