KL locked down ahead of ISA-related rallies


Police began setting up roadblocks around Kuala Lumpur a day ahead of the planned rallies.

KUALA LUMPUR: Police mounted overnight roadblocks and helicopter overflights in Kuala Lumpur as they locked down the capital city while residents braced for conflicting rallies over the controversial Internal Security Act (ISA) that organisers say will culminate with memorandums being handed to the King on the 49th anniversary of the security law.

The one-million-strong Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) is ordering all its members to take part in a planned rally today to protest against the use of ISA, despite police warnings that the gathering would be illegal.

Another rally is being called by maverick politician Ibrahim Ali to support the law that allows detention without trial, which ironically kept him twice in detention.

Police said all rallies are illegal, vowing to ensure they will keep the protesters off the streets.

“We are making it compulsory and commanding all our members to take part in the rally,” PAS vice-president Salahuddin Ayub told reporters yesterday

Despite the order for all PAS members to show up, only 50,000 are expected at the rally which will also be attended by opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, along with PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang and Democratic Action Party leader Lim Kit Siang.

The Abolish ISA Movement, the organiser of the rally, is hoping for a massive turnout to call for the end of a law that allows for indefinite detention without trial while Salahuddin said PAS spiritual leader Datuk Nik Aziz Nik Mat and Abdul Hadi have decreed that the rally was not forbidden in Islam.

“It is not forbidden in Islam as the objective is to abolish the ISA. It is a noble intention,” said Salahuddin.

Protesters will gather at the Sogo shopping mall in the heart of the old city centre here before marching to the palace to hand over a memorandum to Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin, urging him to repeal the Act.

While Salahuddin vowed that it would be a peaceful gathering, the authorities remained concerned about possible tensions arising between the anti-ISA demonstrators and a second group which will also march today in support of the ISA.

Pewaris, an umbrella body of Malay and Muslim non-governmental organisations, will stage its own gathering in Kuala Lumpur to fight for the retention of the security law. It is also planning to march towards the palace.

The Home Ministry has warned that it would not hesitate to take stern action against the participants of the illegal rallies.

“If they violate the law, stern action will be taken against them, no matter if they are pro-ISA or contra-ISA,” Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein warned.

“I will not compromise on this until the security and interests of the country are assured.”

Yesterday, police started setting up roadblocks at key entry points into the city as part of efforts to prevent supporters from entering and causing massive traffic jams around Kuala Lumpur and neighbouring areas.

“All those planning to attend the illegal gatherings must be prepared to face stern action from us, regardless if they are for or against the use of the ISA. We will not compromise as far as security is concerned,” said Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Musa Hassan.

KL police chief Datuk Muhammad Sabtu Osman has also warned that police will stop and detain buses suspected of ferrying protesters.

Critics have said that the ISA is being used by the government against political opponents. The government has argued that it is a crucial tool in fighting terrorism and ensuring national security.

Human rights groups estimate at least 17 people remain in detention under ISA, mainly for alleged links to Islamic militants and forgery.

MI
01/08/09

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