Sunday, November 11, 2007

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NST Online » Local News 2007/11/11

Illegal gathering causes traffic chaos in city

KUALA LUMPUR: A crowd of about 4,000 gathered for an illegal march close to Dataran Merdeka yesterday, causing massive traffic jams across the city.

Police had to use tear gas and water cannons to disperse the demonstration, organised by the Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections or Bersih, a grouping of opposition parties and non-governmental organisations.The crowd converged on Masjid Jamek and the National Mosque to march towards Dataran Merdeka but failed to do so when police cordoned off the area."Police had to resort to such actions because the protesters refused to disperse when ordered to do so," Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Musa Hassan said. He said 245 people were arrested and later released after their statements were taken.

Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, speaking to reporters in Pekan, Pahang, said those involved in the protest had caused difficulties to the people, especially traders and businessmen who had to close their shops and offices."This should not have happened because they were warned not to hold the protest." He said police would investigate the incident and take necessary action."Such incidents affect the business community and the public. We always give priority to peace and don't want to make the life of ordinary people difficult," he said.
Kuala Lumpur police chief SAC 1 Zulhasnan Najib Baharudin said more than 1,000 policemen were on duty to control the situation.Musa had on Thursday warned people to stay away from the gathering as it could lead to trouble and disrupt public order. He said police doubted the real motives of the gathering.On Sept 8, a ceramah by Bersih in Kuala Terengganu had turned into a riot which injured several people, including four policemen. So far, 16 men and four boys have been charged under the Police Act 1967 in connection with the disturbance.Bersih had posted on the Internet that it planned to gather 100,000 people at Dataran Merdeka at 3pm yesterday to march to Istana Negara to present a memorandum calling for reforms to the country's election system.Traffic came to a standstill within the city, on its perimeters and extended to Cheras, Damansara and the Kuala Lumpur-Seremban highway near Sungai Besi.Police and Federal Reserve Unit personnel were forced to use tear gas, water cannons and baton-charge the protesters when they refused to disperse resulting in the crowd running helter skelter.Many of the protesters, who wore yellow T-shirts and bandannas, later gathered outside Istana Negara and some opposition leaders handed over a memorandum to palace officials.