UK riots 'show Malaysia crackdown justified'

11th August 2011, Comments 0 comments

Malaysia's deputy police chief on Thursday defended the quashing of an electoral reform rally last month, saying it helped avoid the type of "tragic scenes" being seen in riot-torn Britain.

The Malaysian government was criticised for its reaction after riot police fired tear gas and water cannon to break up a protest in the capital Kuala Lumpur on July 9, arresting more than 1,600 people.

But Khalid Abu Bakar said in a posting on his Facebook page that several days of British riots highlighted "the nightmares that we are fighting hard to avoid and prevent".

"Praise to God, we are able to avoid these scary and tragic scenes from erupting here in our beloved country," he said.

"Street protest(s) should always be avoided as we will never know what it can turn into. Peace-loving Malaysians will understand. Rights to assemble must always be balanced with public order."

The July rally, organised by a coalition of non-government groups, was called to protest an electoral system considered biased toward the long-ruling Barisan Nasional coalition.

Thousands hit the streets to demand reforms such as the use of indelible ink to prevent voter fraud and the granting of access to mainstream media to all political parties.

Washington and the UN High Commission for Human Rights were among those who criticised the government's reaction after police broke up the rally.

The Barisan Nasional coalition has ruled for half a century but saw its majority slashed in a 2008 general election. A new election is widely expected next year.

© 2011 AFP

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