DBKL cordons off Dataran Merdeka to prevent any form of illegal demonstration

Cordoned off: A DBKL enforcement officer standing guard at Dataran Merdeka in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.

(The Star) – Dataran Merdeka has been cordoned off to prevent any form of illegal demonstration.

The area was cleared and cordoned off by City Hall (DBKL) workers after students, who were taking part in a demonstration calling for free education and the abolition of National Higher Education Fund Corporation (PTPTN) study loans, had set up their tents illegally since last week.

The rally organisers tweeted that the “camp” was taken down by DBKL officers early yesterday and their tents seized.

Kuala Lumpur mayor Tan Sri Ahmad Fuad Ismail defended the action, saying the site couldn’t be occupied by anyone without official permission.

“DBKL told the students that Dataran Merdeka was not meant for their demonstration. But they were still stubborn. That’s why we took action against them,” he said.

Ahmad Fuad had said earlier that DBKL was prepared to discuss with Bersih organisers on an alternative venue for their proposed rally.

Information, Communications and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim urged the organisers to discuss with the authorities and seek an alternative venue.

“I hope the authorities will handle this matter appropriately,” he added.

Meanwhile, four men were detained at the venue yesterday for taking part in the so-called Occupy Dataran protest.

City police chief Deputy Comm Datuk Mohmad Salleh said they included a 22-year-old employee of the Selangor Islamic Affairs Department, a 23-year-old and two university students, both aged 19.

“The arrests were made as the four had obstructed civil servants (DBKL officers) from conducting their duties as they were clearing the tents erected at the site,” he said.

DCP Mohmad said the matter was being investigated and the four were expected to be released on police bail today.

On Monday, Omar Azmi, a student at a private college, pleaded not guilty at a magistrate’s court to a charge of obstructing an enforcement officer from discharging his duties.

Meanwhile at press time, a group was being prevented from entering Dataran Merdeka by DBKL officers.

They had earlier held a candlelight vigil in front of the Dang Wangi police headquarters.