Saturday, February 7, 2009

Angry protesters rally at royal town - Star

Feb 7, 2009

KUALA KANGSAR: This peaceful royal town turned unruly when hundreds of protesters faced off with police in an attempt to stop the swearing-in ceremony of the new Mentri Besar at the hilltop Istana Iskandariah yesterday.

While all was calm inside the palace as preparations were being made for the swearing-in of Pangkor assemblyman Datuk Zambry Abdul Kadir, about 300m away from the palace on Jalan Bukit Chandan a different scenario was shaping up: an angry crowd had swelled at the Ubudiah mosque just before noon.

Tense situation: FRU personnel holding back the demonstrators in front of the Ubudiah Mosque at Bukit Chandan in Kuala Kangsar yesterday. — SAIFUL BAHRI / The Star

Carrying banners and shouting slogans that included “Dissolve the state assembly!”, “Exercise your constitutional rights!” and “Long live Nizar!”, followed by cries of “Allahu­akbar!”, the protesters tried to enter the palace.

Some tried to stop the cars that had VIPs making their way into the palace for the 3.30pm ceremony. Even the limousine carrying Raja Muda of Perak Raja Dr Nazrin Shah was blocked by a man who brazenly lay on the road, while others surrounded the car and shouted at the occupants. Many threw sticks at the cars.

Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak’s car was also forced to slow down and inch its way through the palace.

By 2.45pm, a line of cars ferrying, among them the Raja di-Hilir and state politicians, had formed. This prompted Federal Reserve Unit personnel (FRU) to fire several rounds of tear gas after the crowd failed to heed warnings to disperse.

Police custody: Protesters being arrested by police in front of the Ubudiah Mosque yesterday. — ZABIDI TUSIN / The Star

The protesters instead retaliated by throwing stones, shoes, bottles and even bricks at the police. Several arrests were made.

The crowd refused to back down and many stayed put to wait for the VIPs to drive out from the palace after the ceremony had ended. Tear gas canisters were fired again, some even landing near the VIPs’ cars.

No entry: Protesters blocking an official car belonging to the royal family outside Istana Iskandariah in Kuala Kangsar yesterday.

At about 4pm, a man climbed onto an FRU truck. Claiming to be a state PAS committee member, he spoke through a loud-hailer, urging the crowd to disperse. He told them their message of protest had been made known to the world.

The crowd later thinned out by around 5.30pm.

Some protesters who had gathered on the sides of the road near the Jalan Bukit Chandan roundabout jeered at the cars that ferried Sultan Azlan Shah and Raja Nazrin.

Jammed road: Tear gas enveloping the area as cars carrying VIPs try to pass through the protest site yesterday

They also gave the thumbs-down sign as the cars drove by.

Through all these, Dr Zambry was sworn in as the 11th Mentri Besar of Perak. He took his oath of office before the sultan and later sped off to his constituency where a celebration awaited him.

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