Police fire tear gas, water canons at 10,000-strong Pakatan march to protest SYABAS bailout

(Malaysia Chronicle) – Police fired tear gas and water cannons at some 10,000 people consisting of mostly pro-Pakatan Rakyat protesters trying to hand over a memorandum to the King to protest the BN federal government’s bailout of SYABAS, a firm controlled by Umno crony Rozali Ismail.

Among Pakatan leaders who came to urge the King to advise Prime Minister Najib Razak to return the water rights of the Selangor people back to their state government were PKR deputy-president Azmin Ali, Mentri Besar Khalid Ibrahim, state exco Dr Xavier Jeyakumar and DAP MP for Klang Charles Santiago.

They were gathered at the Masjid Negara or National Mosque, while another group led by a pro-Umno NGO had made the Merdeka Stadium its base.

Khalid told the cheering crowd that more than 250,000 people had already signed a petition to the King. SYABAS had also increased tariff by 37 percent last year, the popular Mentri Besar revealed, turning the applause into loud boos for the firm and Rozali, who has been slammed for arrogance and unabashed reliance on support from top Umno leaders for his plan to monopolize the state’s water distribution.

The protesters, who had gathered at the National Mosque since 9am, then began their march to the Palace a few kilometres away at about 1.30pm. They were approaching the railway station when Federal Reserve Unit personnel blocked their way.

They refused to retreat, shouting ‘Hidup Rakyat’ and appealing to the police that it was a peaceful march. However, the police retaliated by firing round after round of tear gas and chemical-laced water at them, forcing many to scamper for cover.

Earlier in the day, police had set up roadblocks leading to the Palace in anticipation of the rally. They also guarded the maze of small roads in the vicinity of the National Mosque where thousands had gathered and were awaiting word from the rally organizers to begin the walk to the Palace.