Rumour strikes fear in Johor townships

Nukilan Khairul Faizi bin Ahmad Kamil | 8/30/2007 03:02:00 PM | 0 Pandangan »

Petikan daripada
Andrew Ong, Kuek Ser Kuang Keng & Muda Mohd Noor
Aug 29, 07 6:45pm
Two days before the country celebrates its 50th birthday, certain parts of Johor are in a grip of fear.
A rumour about racial strife in two Johor townships has been making the rounds since Sunday via SMS text-message, but authorities were swift to dismiss this as untrue. The details vary in each text-message but the theme is essentially the same - that the purported incident involves Malays and Indians in Masai and the port town of Pasir Gudang.
Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and the police have firmly denied this, but the authorities are not taking chances - eye-witnesses report that numerous roadblocks have been mounted.Pasir Gudang is about 35km east of Johor Bharu while Masai is a little closer to the state capital.
At one of these, said an eye-witness, police screened vehicles from Masai entering Taman Cendana in Pasir Gudang.
When contacted, Johor PAS Youth chief Khairul Faizi Ahmad Kamil said he was told that there were about 10 roadblocks last night between Johor Bharu and Pasir Gudang.
The heavy police presence however seems to be a double-edged sword - while no doubt intended to ensure calm, it has had the effect of fueling anxiety.
“People believe that the police presence means that the scenario, as described in the rumour, must be true,” said Khairul.
“There is a lot of chatter now in the warong (stalls). There is anxiety among residents when they see one another in public.”
Allaying fears Numerous groups, including political parties, have been scrambling to quell public fear. Acting Johor police chief Mohd Mokhtar Mohd Shariff and Johor Bharu South district police chief ACP Roslan Ahmad held a special briefing last night at a school in Taman Cendana for some 300 residents.

Flyers urging calm and telling the public to ignore the rumour were distributed at the event. [see below] Permas Jaya assemblyperson KS Balakrishnan, who had accompanied Roslan, said the residents were assured that there is no truth to the claim being circulated. Balakrishnan, whose constituency covers Taman Cendana, disagreed that the heavy police presence itself posed a source of fear.
“Because of the rumour, we must beef up efforts to ensure security. This is normal,” he told malaysiakini. Pasir Gudang Umno deputy chief Ibrahim Abdul Ghaffar described the situation in Taman Cendana and Permas Jaya as “normal”.
“There are no Federal Reserve Unit (FRU) personnel in the two areas. People are going about their business as usual. Balakrishnan and I visited both areas last night and this morning. There were no fights,” he added.
Eyewitnesses had claimed that FRU trucks were stationed in the two locations, but that they had not seen personnel being deployed. Fears spreading online Meanwhile, the rumour has sparked discussion in Internet forums and blogs.

A search of major sites in Bahasa Malaysia and Mandarin revealed varying degrees of fear being expressed, as well as eyewitness reports. Popular Bahasa Malaysia Internet forum drew more than 500 posts under the topic ‘What is the situation like in Pasir Gudang?’.
A Mandarin forum, has attracted more than 760 posts with many claiming that they would stay indoors in the coming days, as they fear unrest. Numerous forums re-published an email from one ‘Ahmad Roh’ who claims to be from Taman Cendana.
“What we Taman Cendana residents are facing lately is sadness resulting from the false SMS which has mushroomed..."If this continues, we will not forgive these ‘SMS journalist’ [sic] who are rumour-mongers. They are obsessed with creating stories that are spreading fear among the (community),” reads the email denying the rumour, the content of which also appeared in the flyers distributed by the police at the meeting with residents yesterday.
“Have any of you seen or received (mobile phone pictures) that can prove that we are under attack, (or are engaging in) attacks and riots? Let us answer this question: It would be a lie if you (rumour-mongers) say that you have received or seen such pictures.”

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