Monday, July 14, 2008

Malaysian police close down Parliament!

Malaysian police locked down Parliament on Monday with roadblocks and massive security to prevent an anticipated rally by supporters of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, who is awaiting interrogation on a sodomy accusation.

Anwar's party, however, said it was not planning a protest.

Anwar's questioning later Monday was to coincide with an opposition demand for an emergency debate in Parliament on what it says is the public's lack of confidence in the government.

The police action against the opposition is likely to increase political tensions, already high amid Anwar's threat to bring down the government by mid-September even as he fights the sodomy allegation.

The debate is not the same as a no-confidence vote, but the speaker was still not expected to allow it. In the past, almost every opposition motion has been rejected on grounds of being non-urgent or not in the public interest.

Anwar, who is not a member of Parliament, was supposed to witness the session from the visitors' gallery before going to a police station for questioning.

But police obtained a court order barring Anwar as well as the public from coming within three miles of Parliament. Copies of the court order were pasted in public places. Members of Parliament were also told not to bring guests to witness the session.

The roadblocks, which also prevented journalists from entering with their vehicles, caused massive traffic jams in many parts of the city.

District police Chief Ahmad Sofian Mohamad Yassin said the measures were necessary because Anwar's supporters had not sought a police permit for a rally, as required by law.

''We have such laws that any public gathering must first have a police permit ... so we are going to disallow any gathering,'' he said, adding only ''those who have business'' in Parliament would be allowed to enter.

Anwar criticized the court order barring him and his supporters from Parliament as an ''abuse of the legal process.''

Tian Chua, information chief of Anwar's People's Justice Party, said the party had merely wanted supporters to come to Parliament for the debate.

''There is no protest planned. We want people to go into Parliament to listen to the debate,'' he said. ''I think it (the police lock down) is deliberately to create a situation to cause confusion.''

Anwar, who has become a thorn in the side of the government, suffered a setback when he was accused last month by a volunteer worker in his office of sodomizing him. Anwar has dismissed the allegation as a political conspiracy to thwart his political ascendancy.

The People's Justice Party and two other opposition parties together won an unprecedented 82 seats in the 222-member Parliament in March 8 elections. Anwar claims he can get more than 30 ruling party lawmakers to defect to form a new government.

Anwar did not contest the elections because a previous corruption conviction barred him from politics for five years. The ban expired in April.

-- Associated Press, 14 July

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