Wednesday, April 24

‘Never let your guard down’

4

Mawan says riot at State Stadium would not have happened if the authorities had been on alert footing

KUCHING: The riot at the State Stadium last Saturday following the Sarawak-Perak match would not have happened if the authorities were fully prepared for any eventuality, said Social Development Minister Tan Sri William Mawan.

“While it is very regrettable for this incident to happen, it is also something that could be expected at anytime, or instance. When you have a huge crowd that is highly charged, you could expect anything to erupt.

“The thing is we must be prepared. If we could quell it right on the spot that night, it wouldn’t have happened and spread so fast,” he said when met by reporters after attending the closing of the 1st Sarawak Grand Championship at Kuching Golf Sarawak yesterday.

The mayhem erupted at about 11pm and 11 people, including five policemen, were hurt. Seven police vehicles were damaged, including one overturned and another burnt.

Police had caught five youths, aged between 17 and 20 years, for allegedly sparking the riot, and they are now under remand until Sept 4. Two of the suspects are from here and the rest from Kota Samarahan.

It was understood that the fracas broke out due to the fans’ anger over what they claimed as an unfair decision by the match official for allowing Perak’s equalising goal.

Fans felt the scorer was offside. The match ended 1-1, which eliminated Sarawak from the Malaysia Cup campaign.

Hoping that the incident would be an isolated case, Mawan said the ugly episode should not be seen as a common phenomenon in the state even though Sarawakians love football.

“During the Ngap Sayot days, we were excited about many things, but not to the extent of causing destruction. I hope the authorities would deal with the culprits properly, and general awareness needs to be intensified.

“Sarawakians should not support this sort of thing (riot). Don’t bend yourself just because you love football and Sarawak … that your team must win. No, that’s not the way to win, anyway.”

When asked if the troublemakers should be banned, Mawan said this step should be taken if that was the only way to stop them from creating trouble.

He added that drastic actions, including long jail sentence, should also be considered to deal with these hoodlums.

Mawan said he would soon have a meeting with the Football Association of Sarawak (FAS), visit the stadium, and speak to the police to assess the extent of the riot.

Asked whether he was concerned that FAS might be penalised by the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM), Mawan said, “If we have violated the guidelines stipulated by FAM, we stand to be reprimanded, but I don’t think it was fully the fault of the organiser.”

While admitting that the incident had dented Sarawak’s image, he said the most important thing now was to find the best way to avoid a recurrence.

“I will see what can be done to improve the situation. You can’t escape from responsibility. If we need to take very serious action in order to improve the situation, I don’t think we can avoid it.”