Andrew Ong (Mkini)
Nov 10, 07
A crowd consisting of thousands near the Masjid Jamek LRT station were among the hardest hit in the mass rally calling for free and fair elections today in Kuala Lumpur.
At about 2.10pm, numerous Federal Reserve Unit (FRU) trucks and personnel positioned themselves next the Sultan Abdul Samad building, between the crowd and Dataran Merdeka, where the rally was supposed to take place.
Without warning, torrents of chemical-laced water from an FRU water cannon were fired at the crowd forcing everyone to run for cover.
Most of them retreated inside Masjid India and a nearby commercial building which housed a bank and two LRT stations nearby.
Minutes later, the water cannon simultaneously fired in the direction of Masjid India and a crowd gathered at the entrance of the bank.
The crowd inside the mosque, estimated at 800, then attempted to charge past the water cannon and march towards Dataran Merdeka but met with another barrage from the water cannon.
Braving the chemical-laced water, the crowd managed to get within 50 metres from Dataran Merdeka, forcing the water cannon to pull back.
A tense stand-off between the crowd which had by now swelled to more than 2,000 and FRU personnel ensued with the crowd continuously chanting loudly “God is great!”.
At about 2.39pm, the police fired several canisters of tear gas at the crowd who again retreated into the mosque and surrounding buildings.
By then, the police managed to gain more ground and re-established their position in front of Masjid India. Warnings of dispersals were heard from their loudhailers.
The warnings were not heeded but the crowd did not become unruly. They were seen obediently taking orders from marshals comprising of PAS volunteers.
At about 2.45pm, about a dozen tear-gas cannisters were fired in Jalan Tun Perak, dispersing most of the crowd from the area.
By now, there was a torrential downpour.
Following this, the police managed to take firm control of the portion of Jalan Tun Perak from Dataran Merdeka to Lebuh Ampang.
Some 500 people waited for about half an hour in Masjid Jamek and an alley leading to Jalan Medan Pasar before dispersing.
There have been reports that most in the crowd joined other groups near Pasar Seni (Central Market) and Sogo shopping complex.
It is not immediately clear whether there were arrests made within the Masjid Jamek LRT vicinity. However, there was one unconfirmed report of a youth being injured by a tear-gas cannister.
Syed Husin Ali, the opposition PKR deputy president, said he was caught up in the chaos outside the Masjid Jamek.
“I was hit two times by tear gas and water cannons. The police were clearly trying to stop the crowd and it was very difficult for us to carry on with the march, but we did,” he told AFP.
Many bystanders commuting between the Star and Putra LRT stations were caught in the volleys of tear gas and chemical-laced water.
Nearly every business premises in the area closed their doors during the incident today.
Suaram’s executive director Yap Swee Seng condemned the police action as heavy-handed.
“I think they put up unnecessary road blocks to prevent people from attending the rally,” he told AFP.
“It was a violation of human rights to use water cannons and tear gas to disperse people from exercising very fundamental rights of peaceful assembly.”
Acid rain in Masjid Jamek
Andrew Ong (Mkini)