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KUALA LUMPUR, July 19 — The bloody riots outside Low Yat Plaza that left five people injured would not have occurred if the dispute was purely over a stolen phone, an Utusan Malaysia columnist claimed today.
Criticising the police for rejecting the racial overtones of the incident last week, Ku Seman Ku Hussein said the Inspector-General of Police’s swift dismissal ignored the growing resentment over what he said was favouritism towards the traders at Low Yat Plaza as well as in Chinatown in Petaling Street.
“Are Malaysians so uncivilised that they are willing to defend a thief? There have been theft cases before, even though not at the particular plaza. Why didn’t a mob rise up to protect the accused?
“It means that there may be other reasons and this is not merely a case of phone theft,” he wrote in the weekend edition of the paper, Mingguan Malaysia.
The columnist further asked how a single youth could be so influential as to draw a crowd of hundreds to break the law in his defence.
Criticising Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar for categorising the incident as purely being triggered by the arrest of a man allegedly caught stealing a mobile phone, Ku Seman warned the IGP not to portray Malay youths as crazed in their defence of the accused thief.
Insisting that the continued claims of fraud and counterfeits at Low Yat Plaza are real, Ku Seman purported that a poll of regular visitors to the gadget mall would demonstrate this to be true.
He did not, however, provide any evidence to support the claim beyond conjecture.
Instead, he pointed to a lack of news report on enforcement action against the purported counterfeiters at Low Yat Plaza and the bootleg sellers in Chinatown as evidence to support his claim.
Ku Seman added that the apparent bias over the Low Yat riots further supported this view.
“I believe the public will have no issue if the police arrest and charge anyone who is accused of stealing. But they will ask what has happened to the traders in the plaza who hit the accused?” he continued.
Police arrested 24 people in connection to the riots and the preceding brawl, including four shop workers in Low Yat Plaza.
“Lastly, let no one wash their hands of the matter by blaming social media. I think even without social media, the way authorities such as the police dealt with the Low Yat riots has invited all manner of perception.”
Last weekend’s riots occurred after a 22-year-old man was reportedly handed to the police for allegedly stealing a mobile phone, after which his accomplice contacted their friends who then assaulted workers from a mobile phone store and caused an estimated RM70,000 in damage.
Rumours had spread on social media after the alleged theft, in which the accused has pleaded not guilty to the court charge, that the Chinese trader had sold the Malay man a counterfeit phone, leading to calls to boycott “cheating” Chinese traders and the gadget mall itself.
Khalid told a press conference outside Low Yat Plaza last week that there was no fraud or counterfeiting involved in the particular case, which he said was triggered by the alleged theft of a mobile phone by the youth who has since been charged.