Malaysian Fuel Price Hike Protesters Vow To Go Ahead Despite Police Warning
The hard-line stance raised fears of clashes during the rally scheduled for Sunday amid a politically charged atmosphere.
Hatta Ramli, a protest leader and senior official in the opposition Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party, said police have been informed of the rally in central Selangor state.
But protest organizers do not plan to apply for a police permit, required in Malaysia for gatherings of more than four people, he said, urging police not to aggravate the public by breaking up the gathering. In the past, police have ended rallies with tear gas, water cannons and mass arrests.
"All along we have been organizing gatherings as part of the right of citizens to assemble. ... It is always peaceful," he said.
To calm fears of disturbances, activists moved the rally from a sports field to a stadium, said Yap Swee Seng, a human rights activist and protest leader. "It's basically for security reasons ... to avoid provocation," Yap said, adding organizers were afraid the rally could be infiltrated by people wanting to cause trouble.
Activists hope up to 1 million people will attend the all-day event with stage shows and speeches by opposition politicians, including opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, Hatta said.
But Yap said "fear and anxiety" about possible trouble may cause people to stay away.
Selangor police chief Khalid Abu Bakar warned the public to avoid the gathering, saying police would "take the appropriate action. I still call on the public not to attend the rally. It is an illegal rally," Khalid said without elaborating on what measures police would take.
Public anger against the federal government, run by the National Front party, is already high after gasoline prices were increased by 41 percent and diesel prices by 63 percent last month. Food prices have also been rising.
The country's tense political climate since March general elections — when the opposition made unprecedented gains against the National Front — heated up further last week when Anwar was accused of sodomy by one of his aides.
Anwar has dismissed the allegations as a conspiracy by political opponents.
Police detained two opposition activists outside a Kuala Lumpur mosque Friday while they were handing out pamphlets in an attempt to disprove the allegations against Anwar, said opposition representative Shamsul Iskandar Mohamad Akin.
District police contacted by phone declined to comment.
Anwar, a former deputy prime minister, was jailed on a sodomy and corruption conviction a decade ago. The sodomy conviction was later overturned and Anwar was released from prison in 2004. (International Herald Tribune)
***** It looks like the already heated political situation is going to spill over to the weekend too. The cops for one will be having their hands full, while politicians, NGOs and others 'battle' it out. For those who don't intend to take part in the above gathering, stay cool and keep far away from the venue.
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