Police arrest 1,600 in Malaysia protest for electoral reform


Malaysian police fired tear gas and water cannon and made over 1,600 arrests on Saturday during clashes with protesters who defied government warnings to rally in the capital for electoral reform. Leaders of opposition parties were among those detained during a massive security operation but it failed to thwart the outlawed demonstration which saw 50,000 people take to the streets of Kuala Lumpur, according to organisers.
With elections expected to be called early next year, demonstrators were demanding changes to the voting process including eradication of vote buying and prevention of irregularities which they say marred previous polls.
Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, who is currently on trial accused of sodomy, told AFP that he suffered bruising to his head and a cut on his leg after he was knocked down in the pandemonium when police fired tear gas.
“They shot directly (at us)… I could hardly breathe and stand up at the time,” the former deputy prime minister said from a hospital bed, where the 62-year-old said he will be kept in overnight and was on pain killers. “I considered it (the demonstration) a success despite the fact that they (police) were really brutal in their action,” added a frail-looking Anwar, who says the lurid accusations against him are politically motivated.
Bersih, the broad coalition that organised the rare protest, wants to see the use of indelible ink to prevent multiple voting, equal access to the media for all parties and the cleaning-up of electoral rolls. The opposition led by Anwar made major gains in 2008 elections against the ruling coalition but said it would have done better — potentially threatening the Barisan Nasional’s half-century rule — if voting had been more fair.
Saturday’s rally was Malaysia’s biggest street protest since 2007, when the opposition led a demonstration in the capital also demanding electoral reforms.
At the height of the latest action, protesters faced baton-wielding riot police in front of a bus station, retreating at times and regrouping to push back police lines in a cat-and-mouse confrontation in heavy downpours.


Comments are closed.