Detention law sparks protests in Malaysia

KUALA LUMPUR, AP :

 
The rally in Kuala Lumpur was intended to pressure the government to scrap the Internal Security Act, which provides for indefinite imprisonment of people regarded as security threats.

Thousands of people gathered at the city’s main mosque and a shopping mall in defiance of government warnings that police would crack down on demonstrators. The police fired tear gas and chemical-laced water to disperse the protesters shortly after they began marching toward the national palace. The protesters, who chanted “Reformasi”, the opposition’s slogan for political change, had planned to submit a petition to the country’s king, the constitutional monarch, to denounce the security act.

Witnesses saw police charging with batons at the protesters and scuffling with them.

Many people ran into alleys and shops nearby to avoid being arrested.

Before the march started, Kuala Lumpur Police chief Muhammad Sabtu Osman said 150 people, identified as protesters as they were wearing opposition T-shirts and headbands, had been detained to prevent them from taking part.

The government authorities had warned they would not allow the protest, saying it could undermine public peace.

Authorities had set up roadblocks across Kuala Lumpur to deter the demonstrators from trying to reach the city centre, sparking massive traffic crawls. Hundreds of riot police backed by trucks mounted with water cannons stood outside train stations and shopping malls where the demonstrators had arranged to gather.

Restaurants and stores were shuttered on several streets amid concerns of violence.
Prime Minister Najib Razak had on Friday urged the people not to join the protest. Najib has promised to consider amending the security act, though the government officials had repeatedly said it was necessary to safeguard national security.

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