Malaysia arrests over 1,600 during anti-govt rally

People were trying to assemble at a stadium for a banned rally seeking electoral reforms.

Updated: Jul 09, 2011, 21:33 PM IST

Kuala Lumpur: More than 50,000 people on Saturday poured onto the streets of Malaysian capital in the
biggest political showdown in years to demand electoral
reforms, defying a massive lockdown with authorities arresting
more than 1,600 people, including opposition leaders.

People came out in large numbers for the opposition-
backed rally to bring pressure on Prime Minister Najib Razak`s
long ruling coalition to usher in electoral reforms and more
transparency ahead of national polls early next year.

Police fired tear gas and detained more than 1,600
people as they sealed off all major roads leading to the city
centre in the capital, closed train stations and deployed
trucks mounted with water cannons to thwart the rally.

Leaders of the opposition parties were among those
detained in a massive security operation to stall the rally,
which failed as more than 50,000 people took to the streets,
organisers claimed.

Protesters faced baton wielding policemen in front of
the downtown bus station as they attempted to march to
independence stadium, the venue of the rally. Opposition
leader Anwar Ibrahim was injured during the protest.

The rallyist broke into three groups with some
attempting to march to the king`s palace to handover a
memorandum detailing their demands.

Among those arrested were Ambiga Sreenivasan and Maria
Chin Abdullah, the two leaders of the Bersih, the opposition
coalition that had organised the rally.

Thousands of other marchers were also trying to make
their way to the venue, shouting slogans `long live the
people` and `we want electoral reforms`.

Police have declared the protest illegal, warning of
chaos in the streets. Hundreds of policemen, many armed with
batons and anti-riot gear and backed by water cannon, were
deployed in strategic locations around the capital.

The rally marked the culmination of a campaign
launched by opposition parties who have accused Najib`s
national front government of clinging to power for 54-years
through electoral frauds.

The rally, called by the non-governmental organisation
Bersih 2.0 (meaning clean in Malay language), was to be held
at the city centre but after Prime Minister Najib suggested
that the march be held inside a stadium, Bersih chief Ambiga
Sreenevasan agreed.

PTI