SOLYMONE BLOG

MALAYSIA ARRESTS 514 AHEAD OF BANNED RALLY


Demonstration Berseh 2.0 in Kuala Lumpur on July 9,2011





KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia - Police fired tear gas and detained hundreds of activists. Thousands of demonstrators massed across Malaysia's largest city demanding electoral reforms in the country's biggest political rally in years.
The opposition-backed rally planned for Saturday afternoon is the culmination of weeks of pressure on Prime Minister Najib Razak's long-ruling coalition to make election laws fairer and more transparent ahead of national polls widely expected by mid-2012.
The National Front has been in power since independence from Britain in 1957, but opposition gains in recent years have spurred calls for change.
Many of the typically bustling commercial districts in downtown Kuala Lumpur were eerily empty on Saturday, as authorities took extraordinary security measures by blocking numerous roads, closing train stations and deploying trucks mounted with water cannons near the Independence Stadium.
  • Over the past two weeks, more than 200 other activists have been arrested nationwide for trying to promote the rally. Six are being held under security laws that allow indefinite detention without trial.
  • Most of the others were eventually released, but some were charged with laws banning activities linked to illegal assemblies. They face several years in prison if convicted. The activists' demands include an overhaul of voter registration lists, tougher measures to curb fraud and fairer opportunities for opposition politicians to campaign in government-linked media.
  • The National Front's mandate expires in mid-2013 but many analysts expect elections to be called by next year.
Supporters of the Bersih coalition were also planning solidarity marches over the weekend in foreign cities, including in Australia, Britain, France, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, the Philippines, South Korea, Thailand and the United States.
In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said that the U.S. has been communicating to Malaysia the importance of respecting human rights, including freedom of expression and assembly.
Source: AP, Al Jazeera, Agencies
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