15 April, 2008

Malaysia probes opposition leaders

On Monday night thousands gathered in the heart of Kuala Lumpur to hear Anwar declare that he had enough support for the opposition to form the government.

Al Jazeera reported that the "Organisers estimated 40,000 people, gathered to hear Anwar's first public speech in the capital, Kuala Lumpur, since last month's general elections."

NST online said "About 10,000 people thronged the Sultan Sulaiman Club", Malaysiakini said "some 20,000 people of all walks of life defied police ban to welcome Anwar’s return to active politics following the expiry of his ban."

Police said the number was closer to 4,000.

Meanwhile, Malaysian police say they are investigating leaders of Anwar Ibrahim's Keadilan party over a gathering held to mark the de facto opposition leader's formal return to politics.

Anwar's wife, Wan Azizah Wan Ibrahim, who is president of the party, was among four leaders told to report to the police for questioning over their participation at the rally which police said was illegal.

Tian Chua, a senior party official, said the leaders did not plan to report to the police on Tuesday as demanded, adding that they would "find another appropriate date".

"Today is not an appropriate time," he told The Associated Press on Tuesday. "We have other work."

Police halted Anwar an hour into his speech and the crowd dispersed peacefully.

Police said the rally was illegal because it did not have a permit required by Malaysian law for all public assemblies of more than five people, and had urged people to stay away.

Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) president Datin Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail will not give a statement to the police over a gathering held by the party at the Sultan Sulaiman Club here last night although she was issued a notice to do so Tuesday, said PKR deputy president Dr Syed Husin Ali.

He said the notice asked her to come to the Dang Wangi police station here at 3pm Tuesday to assist investigations into a police report lodged over the gathering.

"Besides having a busy schedule Tuesday, Dr Wan Azizah also will not go to the police station to give a statement so long as she does not receive a copy of the police report that was lodged about the gathering," he told a press conference which was also was atteneded by Dr Wan Azizah at the PKR office here.

Dr Syed Husin said others who received a similiar notice were Selangor Menteri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim, PKR vice president Azmin Ali and special aide to Khalid, Yahya Shari.

He said the notice stated that the case was being investigated under Section 27(5) of the Police Act 1967 and Section 149 of the Penal Code pertaining to illegal gatherings.

"We deem this action by the police against PKR leaders a form of provocation. They (police) appear to be very quick to act on our leaders the moment a police report (about us) is lodged," he said.

Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim said he has convinced about 30 lawmakers from the ruling coalition to join an alliance that would topple Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's government.

Anwar, a former Malaysian deputy premier, is attempting to win over lawmakers from the multi-ethnic ruling coalition to his opposition group.

Anwar plans to wait for more lawmakers to switch before attempting to form a government, he told reporters late yesterday after addressing 20,000 people at a rally in Kuala Lumpur that was broken up by police.

``We are ready,'' Anwar said. ``We want the numbers to be that meaningful so that it is comfortable for us to lead.''



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