NST – 12 November 2007
By Joniston Bangkuai, David Yeow and Roy Goh
PENAMPANG: The opposition-led illegal rally to deliver an election reform petition to the palace on Saturday was an attempt to force the Yang di-Pertuan Agong into taking sides, the prime minister said.
“Obviously, the action was tantamount to dragging the institution of the monarchy, and the king, into politics,” Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said at a press conference after he opened the Parti Bersatu Sabah 22nd annual congress here.
A memorandum calling for changes to the electoral process was handed by opposition stalwarts Lim Kit Siang of the DAP, Pas president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang and Parti Keadilan Rakyat adviser Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim to an official at the gates of Istana Negara.
The king, Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin, was away in Terengganu.
The coalition of opposition parties and non-governmental organisations, calling itself Bersih, had organised a rally of some 10,000 people, according to an official police estimate, to march to the palace with the petition. Police had denied the assembly a permit.
“I believe the king is wise and mature and would not fall into their (the opposition’s) political trap,” Abdullah said.
He said the opposition could be anticipating the general election soon and it was typical of them to organise an illegal gathering and to come up with such a memorandum to win support.
The prime minister was satisfied with the police’s handling of the demonstration.
“I have left it to the police and they handled it very well and I am very happy.”
It was reported that police used water cannon and tear gas to disperse the protesters.
Abdullah said illegal demonstrations not only strained the police but also the public.
“We don’t like things like this to happen because it is a burden to the police to control the situation.”
Traffic slowed to a virtual standstill across the capital on Saturday as police cordoned off Dataran Merdeka, closed train stations and restricted or diverted vehicles from the city centre.
“Roadblocks and other measures taken to control the situation will cause inconvenience to the public, but the police have to carry out their duties and responsibilities,” Abdullah said.
“Such illegal assemblies, including street demonstrations, will cause hardship and make many people angry.”
In Kuala Lumpur, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said demonstrations achieved nothing but tore down the spirit of national unity that past leaders had toiled so hard to build.
At the Culture, Arts and Heritage Ministry’s National Deepavali open house in Brickfields yesterday, Najib said public protests were not part of Malay- sian culture.
“If the opposition think they have accomplished much by gathering about 10,000 people for their demonstration, I want them to know that Barisan Nasional can marshal more than that number easily. But what’s the point?” he said.
In Kota Kinabalu, International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Rafidah Aziz said the opposition would not gain support by taking desperate measures to get attention.
Rafidah, the Wanita Umno leader, said the opposition was clearly responsible for the demonstration.
“The people of Malaysia, whether they are ordinary people or business people or those who work for private companies or the government, will surely reject street politics,” she said at the launch of the International Women Executive Congress yesterday.
PM: Rally a move to draw monarchy into politics
NST – 12 November 2007