01 August, 2009

Malaysia-Thousands of people gathered to pressure the government to scrap the Internal Security Act !

The police started setting up roadblocks on Friday ahead of the illegal gatherings, causing major traffic jams around the city.

Federal Reserve Unit personnel were at strategic areas, including the Sultan Abdul Samad Building, Masjid Negara and Masjid Jamek.

Thousands of people demonstrated in Kuala Lumpur, against a controversial, decades-old law allowing detention without trial.

In chaotic scenes in downtown Kuala Lumpur, some 5,000 police including riot squads arrested scores of protesters as they gathered at rallying points across the city including two mosques and a shopping complex.

Deputy IGP Ismail Omar said that 175 people had been arrested for taking part in the protest, aimed at pressuring the government to abolish laws that allow for detention without trial.

"We just wanted to disperse them, so we used water cannon and tear gas to do that," he told AFP, insisting the police action was not heavy-handed.

Among the detained were several top political figures including R Sivarasa, vice-president of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim's party.

Police fired tear gas at protesters as they began a march towards the national palace calling for reform.

Witnesses saw police charging with batons at the protesters and scuffling with them. Many people ran into alleys and shops nearby to avoid being arrested.

Before the march started, Kuala Lumpur Police Chief Muhammad Sabtu Osman said 150 people — identified as protesters because they were wearing opposition T-shirts and headbands — had been detained to prevent them from taking part.

Prime Minister Najib Razak said he had already agreed to review the controversial Internal Security Act.

The protest started after prayers finished at the national mosque, when a crowd of about 1,000 marched along one of the city's main streets.

At about 5.00 pm, top Pakatan leaders including Anwar Ibrahim, Lim Kit Siang, Nizar Jamaluddin joined the demonstration near City Hall. Police fired tear gas and water cannons at protesters gathered around Sogo complex, Maju Junction and in Jalan Raja Laut.

They also started to pull down banners. Traffice came to a standstill as it was virtually impossible to enter the city centre this afternoon. Public transportation - LRT and Monorail - was packed.

Kuala Lumpur police chief Datuk Mohd Sabtu Osman says that 438 people were arrested until 6 pm, including 37 women and 38 juvenile.

Meanwhile, minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz said the government has no intention of abolishing the Internal Security Act (ISA).

“The ISA is a necessary law that has ensured stability in the country ” he said.

“As long as Barisan Nasional is leading the government, the ISA will not be abolished,”

He said the rally was another attempt by opposition groups to undermine the administration of Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

“The Prime Minister enjoys the popularity and support of the people. This is just another way for the opposition to try to chip away this support,” Nazri added.

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