Two men held by police after violence erupts at Mahathir forum

Two men held by police after violence erupts at Mahathir forum
Protester throws flare and cause chaos during the "Nothing to Hide 2.0" event at Shah Alam, Malaysia on Sunday, Aug. 13, 2017. Mahathir attend the "Nothing to Hide 2.0" event to challenge Prime Minister Najib Razak on corruption allegations against him. Photo: AP
Published: 8:45 PM, August 13, 2017

KUALA LUMPUR — Assailants set off flares and attacked people on Sunday (Aug 13) during a forum where former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad was speaking, in what was believed to be an attempt to sabotage the event organised by the opposition camp.

Chairs were thrown and shoes were flung on stage when Dr Mahathir, the chairman of opposition Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition was speaking during the “Nothing to Hide 2.0” event organised for him and Prime Minister Najib Razak to debate issues surrounding state investment firm 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

Two men were held by the police after the incident.

“I challenged the prime minister to come. What is there to be scared of? You said you are innocent and if I can’t prove your guilt, then I am wrong. So why are you hiding?” he said during the forum.

Bottles were also thrown at members of the audience when the former premier was taking questions from the audience. Members of the security team present were forced to retaliate, sparking off a mass brawl.

Dr Mahathir, stunned by the chaos, stood and watch as the tussle between the assailants and the security forces spread across the hall and prompted innocent bystanders to flee for safety. Moments after the brawl started, security personnel quickly escorted the former prime minister, his wife Dr Siti Hasmah and other national PH leaders to the rear exit of the event venue.

A security member from Dr Mahathir’s Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia’s (PPBM) Youth wing, Armada Bersatu, said they suspected that the assailants were hired by some elements within rival party United Malays National Organisation (Umno) to cause trouble.

The chaos erupted just after a member of the audience asked Dr Mahathir to clarify the Memali incident, asking the veteran politician if the force used against the Memali protesters by the police at the time was justified.

“They (protesters) only used knifes and sharpened bamboos Tun? How can you justify (the force)?” the man asked. Dr Mahathir, responding calmly, said: “Four policemen were killed. What do you think they killed them with? What the police did was proportionate with the force, it was their SOP (standard operating procedure).”

In 1985, 200 policemen under orders from then Deputy Prime Minister Musa Hitam, laid siege to houses in the remote Memali village in Kedah. The houses were occupied by an Islamic sect of about 400 people.

The siege resulted in the deaths of 14 villagers and 4 policemen.

Dr Mahathir, 92, led the country for 22 years before stepping down in 2003. He has been spearheading calls for Mr Najib to resign over a multibillion-dollar financial scandal surrounding 1MDB. The fund is being investigated in several countries for money laundering.

Mr Najib has denied any wrongdoing. He was invited to attend Sunday’s forum but did not attend.

Meanwhile, Mr Najib on Sunday chided Dr Mahathir for labelling Umno as a party owned by the current premier.

“Tun M said he does not support Umno because Umno is owned by Najib. Since when Umno belongs to Najib?,” said Mr Najib.

“Umno is more open today than any other time, and I am a leader of the party because of the support of the members... I allow my fate to be determined by 165,000 Umno members nationwide. Because there is no way you can buy the votes of 165,000 leaders.”

He added: “They voted based on their whims and fancies, but I manage to win uncontested. Tell me who is the dictator here?” Mr Najib asked.

He said he enjoyed a strong relationship with deputy premier Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.

“There are several quarters trying to pit me and my deputy, claiming that he was planning something, I would like to repeat that my confidence towards him is indisputable,” said Mr Najib.

Dr Mahathir revealed in a recent blog post that Mr Zahid had met him, supposedly to seek his help in replacing Mr Najib as prime minister. The meeting took place not long after Mr Zahid was appointed deputy prime minister, following the sacking of Mr Muhyiddin Yassin in 2015. Mr Zahid has denied the accusation.