Apr. 29 - A foreign observer panel criticizes Malaysia's government amid unrest over the country's electoral system. Lindsey Parietti reports.
Pedestrians pass barbed wire in Malaysia's capital - the remains of a barrier erected to block anti-government protesters. The streets of Kuala Lampur are quiet after at least 25,000 people faced tear gas and water cannons to demand electoral reforms Saturday. There were no deaths reported, but the unrest may delay the country's polls, which must be called before next March. A panel of independent foreign observers called the electoral system "backwards", and said meetings with Malaysian officials revealed concerning attitudes. (SOUNDBITE) (English) ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR FROM THE UNIVERSITY OF NEW SOUTH WALES, CLINTON FERNANDES, SAYING: "In our meeting with the secretary general of the Union of Malays National Organization who is also the secretary general of Barisan Nasional he stated, and I quote: 'the importance of avoiding racial strife -- are our people ready for mature freedom', commenting on political developments in Indonesia he offered the view: 'one of the problems in Indonesia is there is too much freedom', Unquote. It is a view not only of myself but my distinguished colleagues in the group that these comments are disturbing and they reflect authoritarian attitudes at the highest levels of power," An Australian panel member was surprised at the lack of free press. (SOUNDBITE) (English) INDEPENDENT SENATOR OF ADELAIDE, AUSTRALIA, NICK XENOPHON, SAYING: "It is just incredible that last night when I saw the news following the demonstration following the tear gassing of tens of thousands of demonstrators and I happen to be caught up in that there was no coverage of that in the official media." Some put protester numbers at 50,000, which would make it Malaysia's largest political demonstration in more than a decade. Lindsey Parietti, Reuters