Thousands brave heat and rain to march for peace

  • Nation
  • Sunday, 30 Mar 2003

KUALA LUMPUR: Thousands of Malaysians braved the afternoon heat and a downpour to say to the world “Give peace a chance” at two separate gatherings. 

At Padang Merbok, more than 10,000 people holding anti-war banners and placardsgathered soon after offices closed at 1pm to make a symbolic 1km walk to Dataran Merdekain support of Peace Malaysia's efforts. 

MARCH FOR PEACE: Participants carrying mock coffins with the words 'Freedom, 'Democracy' and 'Liberty' and banners marching along Jalan Parlimen to Dataran Merdeka Saturday.--STARpic by LOW BOON TAT.

They were joined by Barisan Nasional politicians, journalists, NGOs and those from the entertainment industry. 

At KLCC, another 2,000 people attended a similar anti-war gathering which was organised by the opposition parties. 

But when they refused to disperse and marched to the nearby Australian High Commission, police fired tear gas todisperse them and detained several leaders in the process. 

Despite the lack of publicity, the gathering at Padang Merbok received a larger thanexpected crowd from all levels of society. 

The afternoon heat did not bother the crowd, made up mostly of office workers, nordid the rain which fell an hour later stopped them from marching to Dataran Merdeka. 

The “showpiece” of the march was three red mock coffins with the words “Freedom”, “Democracy” and “Liberty” complete with wreaths which were carried in front of the procession. 

Chanting “We want peace,” many people also carried effigies denouncing US PresidentGeorge W. Bush and Britain Prime Minister Tony Blair and banners with anti-war andpeace slogans. 

Peace Malaysia patron Datuk Hishammuddin Hussein told the crowd that Bush and Blairhad not given convincing evidence to wage war on Iraq. 

“They have not established links that Iraq is involved in the Sept 11 terrorist attacks, or that Iraq is part of the global terror syndicate or that it is co-operatingwith the al-Qaeda. 

“All the US and its coalition members have done is to humiliate the United Nationsand render the body useless and incapable of stopping their aggression. They even sidelined the Security Council,” he said tocheers from the crowd. 

Other VIPs present were Housing and Local Government Minister Datuk Seri Ong Ka Tingand Women and Family Development Minister Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil. 

Among the journalists and artistes present were Malaysian Press Institute chairmanDatuk Ahmad A. Talib, The Star executive editor Datuk Wong Chun Wai, National Press Club president Ahiruddin Atan, National Union of Newspaper Workers general secretary R. Chandrasekaran and Malaysian Artistes Association (Karyawan) acting presidentFreddie Fernandez. 

Norman of KRU sang and the crowd joined in to the chorus of “all we are saying is give peace a chance.” 

Representing the Chinese NGOs, Ong said Malaysians of all races and religions condemned the invasion of Iraq. 

“Speaking on behalf of 800 Chinese organisations and guilds, I would like to clearly state our stand that we want the US to stop the war immediately,” he said. 

“All the excuses given by the US are illegal and not valid,” he said, adding that USclaims that its actions against Iraq were based on the objective to find weapons of mass destruction, to install a new regime and to bring democracy to that country were all unacceptable. 

K. Murugiah, who spoke on behalf of Indian NGOs, said all Malaysians condemned theactions of the leaders of the US and its allies, whom he said were “like animals”. 

Iraqi teenager Saif Salah Sulaiman also spoke, telling the crowd how Iraqis were suffering from the invasion. 

The 16-year-old student at the Iraqi school here, said his people would continue todefend their homeland and fight the invaders.Hishammuddin later launched the Malaysian International Fund for Peace. 

At the KLCC, PRM president Dr Syed Husin Ali, Parti Keadilan Nasional vice-presidentAzmin Mohd Ali, PAS secretarygeneralNasharuddin Mat Isa and DAP's Dr Tan Seng Giaw led the opposition gathering ofanti-war speeches. 

The police stopped them from marching to the American Embassy but the protestersturned instead to the Australian High Commission. 

Related story:Hand in hand to reject war 

More reports:Flashpoint: Iraq

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