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Malaysia’s Biggest Rallies since 1998 – KL under siege



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Nov 10 2007
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There’s a strong reason why Malaysian PM Abdullah Badawi didn’t looks relax when he should be when closing the 58th UMNO General Assembly on Friday. Obviously he was disturbed with what was going to happen on the very next day, Saturday 10th Nov 2007. A mass gathering organized by a non-governmental organisation called The Coalition for Clean and Fair Election (BERSIH) which consists of a group of 60 non-governmental organisations supported by five Opposition parties was scheduled to happen on that day. The rally is to call for free and fair elections.

According to the New York-based Human Rights Watch, Malaysia’s parliamentary elections have been characterized by vote buying, the use of public resources by the ruling parties, and gerrymandering. The Election Commission has been accused of bias. – reported Kyodo News. Bersih is demanding the use of indelible ink to prevent voters from casting more than one vote, the removal of alleged phantom voters from electoral rolls, and access to state-controlled media by all political parties. New York-based Human Rights Watch slammed the government’s stance on the mass rally, which Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi had vowed to suppress, and police had threatened to arrest protesters.

Malaysia RalliesI was traveling down to KL for my breakfast but decided to call off the plan. It appears the police are dead serious about filtering every single creature going into the city, not a single mosquito is supposed to past them. The capital of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur is under siege, not by terrorists but by thousands of police and anti-riot police together with tons of FRU trucks readied with water cannon. Basically you can’t enter Kuala Lumpur at all. People from Gombak trying to access the city via Bulatan Pahang are screened even at road blocks setup before the junction into Titiwangsa Lake. If you try to access from Jalan Ampang you’re stucked at Jalan Jelatek as well. Same with routes from Sg Besi, Sg Buloh, Old Klang Road, Bangsar, Brickfields and the rest of the roads leading into the Dataran Merdeka (Independence Square), the supposed venue for the gathering.

Malaysia Rallies 2While the Malaysian government put the number of demonstrators at less than 10,000 BERSIH claimed over 40,000 people involved while CNN/AFP put the numbers at between 30,000 and 40,000. Opposition group leader and former deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim put the number much higher, claiming more than 100,000 people had gathered in the streets. Witnesses said police fired tear gas and jets of “chemically-laced water” at hundreds of demonstrators who sought refuge in the city’s Jamek mosque and in commercial buildings. MalaysiaKini which provide live reports on the rally experienced servers overload – you can take a look at the map here.

The delegation, led by opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, successfully handed the memorandum to the King’s secretary at the gate of the Istana Negara at 4 pm, accompanied by PAS’ Hadi Awang and Nasharuddin Mat Isa and DAP’s Lim Kit Siang and Lim Guan Eng. The organisers then asked the crowd to disperse. Foreign media carries out the rallies’s coverage in a big wave and thanks to internet, the local Government-contolled media that normally black-out such rallies failed to close the people’s access to such information.

So, can you blame the poor PM Badawi to be in such panic in the first place? The PM has said no gathering is a peaceful gathering even before it takes place. Does this mean the PM somehow knew in advance the gathering will not be a peaceful one? The gathering turned out to be the biggest anti-government protest in nearly a decade with the organizer, BERSIH, claimed over 40,000 people took part, although it wasn’t able to be held at the pre-planned Independence Square as the police had taken over the area.

I still can’t understand why the government and police can’t just allow the “peaceful” gathering to take place. The fact that BERSIH chose Saturday, just two days after the Deepavali festival to hold the gathering showed it tried to minimize the impact to the motorists as much as possible. Of course the argument that the gathering was illegal since it did not receive police permit is simply insulting people’s intelligence as it was known that besides the government itself, no other parties are allowed any permits to gather.

For God sake just let those people voice their rights and if anyone becomes violent, arrest him/her. People will not simply sacrifice their sweet weekend time to demonstrate if the whole election process is clean. And to even think of the basic fundamental rights enshrined under Constitution – freedom of speech my foot!

# Note: more photos from Malaysia-Today

# Note: Coverage by AlJazeera that made one of the Malaysian Ministers furious?

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Comments

The Agong’s secretary:

How do we ensure

1) the Agong gets it, and
2) that he will call his other royal brothers to act?

For all we know, the letter could have been intercepted by the BN government. Raja Petra has reported that the previous Agong was once under house arrest! Even his 2 sons could not reach him.

Hi FinanceTwitter :

Hope things in Malaysia would turn out fine. There’s some coverage about the protest in Singapore papers but not much.

Best Regards,

Tony Chai
My Options Trading Blog

hello anonymous,

based on how high profile this gathering was, i doubt the memorandum could be hijacked … the King (Agong) has definitely received it though whether anything can be done thereafter is everybody’s guess …

furthermore, the memorandum could not threaten the current ruling govt in any other way … at least for the time being …

cheers …

[…] Malaysia’s Biggest Rallies since 1998 – KL under siege Crisis, Government […]

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