Andrew Ong and Beh Lih Yi
Nov 9, 07
Police have began screening motorists for potential participants at a planned mass rally in Kuala Lumpur tomorrow.
Eyewitnesses claimed that police have mounted roadblocks since yesterday along the busy Jalan Kuching and Karak Highway in an apparent move to screen motorists arriving from the East Coast.
Opposition parties PAS and PKR are believed to be mobilising thousands from the Malay heartland of Kelantan and Terengganu for the event.
Friday and Saturday are the official weekend holidays for the two states.
Many more opposition supporters from all over the country are expected to be bus-ed in for the mass rally organised by election reform coalition Bersih.
Organisers aim to gather at least 100,000 people at 3pm tomorrow at Dataran Merdeka, followed by a march to the Istana Negara about 2.5km away.
The police have advised the public to steer clear of the event as the organisers do not have a permit. “Harsh action” has been threatened against those found violating any laws.
Police chief Musa Hassan told the state Bernama news agency that there was a risk of rioting and property destruction at the event.
“The police fear that there are irresponsible groups and undesirable elements who will take the opportunity to create disorder through provocations which would eventually lead to street demonstrations and rioting,” he said.
Musa said that about 4,000 police would deploy to disperse the crowd and roadblocks would be set up around the venue.
“Members of the public found in the area to attend the gathering are committing an offence and legal action will be taken against them,” he said.
Another eyewitness from Malacca told Malaysiakini said similar roadblocks had been mounted near Simpang Ampat since early this morning.
“It was raining. Motorcyclists wearing yellow raincoats were held at the roadside,” said the eyewitness.
Bersih has chosen yellow as the official colour for the event, and rally participants have been encouraged to wear yellow clothing, armbands or headbands.
There were also reports that roadblocks have been erected at entry points to the North-South Highway, even as far away as Tandop and Pendang in Kedah.
It is learnt that PAS’ top brass have already arrived in Kuala Lumpur in anticipation police action.
Yesterday, Kuala Lumpur police chief Zulhasnan Najib Baharuddin said there will be several road closures and checkpoints throughout the city to keep people away from Dataran Merdeka.
Zam speaks on rally
Meanwhile, Information Minister Zainuddin Maidin brushed aside a question on whether the state-owned Radio Televisyen Malaysia (RTM) and news agency Bernama have been directed to black out news on the mass rally.
“It’s up to you, it’s up to your editor,” he told a press conference held at the sidelines of the Umno annual meet in Kuala Lumpur this morning.
Malaysiakini had earlier learnt that the print media has been instructed by the government not to carry any statements issued by Bersih on the rally or to highlight the event.
Industry sources said they are only allowed to run the authorities’ side of the story.
Several video montages of violent demonstrations worldwide, including the recent riot in Batu Buruk in Terengganu, have been played repeatedly on RTM1 and RTM2 this week.
One such clip ends with the grim message, “demonstrations will only bring violence”.
Zainuddin also told the media not to fall into the organiser’s statement.
“Do you believe thousands of people will be coming for the rally? Don’t be so silly as to be taken in by them,” he said, adding that even the Umno annual meeting could not gather such a number of people.
As a Malaysiakini journalist pressed the issue, Zainuddin retorted: “Don’t become their tool, you are just working for Malaysiakini, don’t become their tool.”
In a late development, Bersih has announced four alternative meeting points should Dataran Merdeka be sealed off by the police. They are to congregate at 3pm in Sogo department store, Masjid India, Central Market and Masjid Negara.
Cops mount roadblocks to stop rally participants
Andrew Ong and Beh Lih Yi