More arrests for pre-poll fights????

5 03 2008

M’sia arrests 16 for pre-poll fights

Election fever: People walking past a bus stop decorated with election posters and banner by the ruling Barisan Nasional (National Front) party in Kuala Lumpur yesterday. Malaysia will go to the polls on Saturday.Picture: Reuters
Wednesday, March 5, 2008
MALAYSIAN police said yesterday they had arrested 16 people for fighting and sending out racially-charged phone messages during campaigning for national elections this weekend.A spate of text messages have been circulating urging ethnic Chinese and Indians to vote out Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s Malay-dominated coalition government, which has ruled since 1957.

And the government was yesterday forced to deny one SMS message which said the coalition would deploy motorbike hooligans known as “mat rempit” to stir up trouble on election day.

Deputy Information Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said the message falsely claimed the mat rempit would harass voters and vandalise public property while wearing the opposition’s emblems.

Deputy police chief Ismail Omar said the 16 had been arrested in the past nine days, but would not say where the fights took place, name the individuals involved, nor reveal the contents of the texts. He added that they had been released on police bail.

“These people were involved in fighting and sending out all kinds of (phone text messages), some of which affect racial sentiments,” he said.

“When they do something that is damaging to the peace and security, it is our duty to act and if there is evidence, we can charge them under the Sedition Act,” he said.

“We have also received complaints about these messages from the public and we will investigate these persons and the matter thoroughly.

“We are keeping a close watch on them and have told them not to cause any trouble which can affect the elections.”

Electioneering in Malaysia is usually peaceful although a spate of protests by ethnic minorities and unhappiness over rising inflation and expected fuel hikes have driven many to the streets over the past few months.

Meanwhile Malaysia’s election commission dropped a plan yesterday to introduce indelible ink in Saturday’s general election, fuelling further opposition anger and raising fears of electoral cheating.

The panel had planned to use the ink – to be daubed on a voter’s finger to ensure he or she could not attempt to cast a second ballot – for the first time in the poll to help meet an opposition demand to combat electoral fraud.




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