Crowd disperses; 124 arrested, police on standby (Update 5)

  • Nation
  • Saturday, 07 Mar 2009

More pictures on the protest Protest against the teaching of Maths and Science in English KUALA LUMPUR: Riot police fired tear gas into several hundreds of people marching to Istana Negara to protest the use of English in the teaching of Mathematics and Science at 2.40pm Saturday.

But by 3.20pm, the police and Federal Reserve Unit were successful in dispersing the crowd.

Police detained 124 people for questioning. Among those spotted in the crowd were Pas President Datuk Seri Hadi Awang and Mohd Sabu.

About 200 people ran away to the mosque, regrouped there but dispersed after evening prayers.

The march and the subsequent rain has caused massive traffic jams in the city.

The crowd had gathered at Masjid Negara earlier and started to march to the Palace and were close to the Tun Sambanthan building when riot police began shooting tear gas.

Many in the crowd ran away as the scene filled with smoke. The Federal Reserve unit trucks were initially stuck in traffic but caught up with the crowd and also started firing tear gas.

The crowd had planned to submit a memorandum to the King, appealing for the return of the use of Bahasa Malaysia in the teaching of the two subjects.

However, in the midst of the chaos, police escorted Gapena’s Datuk A Samad Said to the Palace gates and he handed the memorandum to someone in the guardhouse.

The police and FRU have thrown a safety perimeter at the Istana gates and are still on standby.

Meanwhile, Inspector General of Police Tan Sri Musa Hassan said the group, initially led by Gapena’s Datuk Hassan Ahamd, Datuk A Samad Said and Dr. Shaharil MD Zain, had agreed there would not be gatherings or demonstrations during their discussions with the KL CPO deputy Comm Datuk Wira Mohd Sabtu Osman.

“They agreed to send representatives into the Istana after the Zohor prayers but when political parties like PAS and PKR got involved, it became an illegal gathering and demonstration.

“We had no choice but to use tear gas to disperse the crowd who refused to listen to police warnings,” he said.

Musa said the police control centre in Bukit Aman and the City police were deluged with angry callers as there were massive jams all over the city.

He said he had asked for reinforcements to ensure city dwellers were protected and not inconvenienced by irresponsible political parties.

“I assure the public that stern action will be taken against those involved in organising the demonstrations.

“They are not fighting for democracy but are demo crazy,” he added.

He said city police have identified those involved and police would do the necessary to bring them to book.

Independent Member of Parliament for Pasir Mas Datuk Ibrahim Ali believed the march by Gerakan Mansuhkan PPSMI was only for political mileage and should have only been carried out as a ‘last resort’.

“The Government has said that it would come to a decision soon so this march is unnecessary,” he told reporters on Saturday.

He added that NGOs should engage in more dialogue with political parties and the Government in order to carry their agendas through.

“There is no need to take to the streets. They would have no credibility if they do so,” he said

Related stories: Najib: Do not reject blindly Majority opted for English when answering Science paper Don’t politicise Maths and Science issue, says PM Hisham: No need for further debate on policy Teachers going mad teaching subjects in English, claims rep

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