The capital city turned into a battle zone, similar to scenes a decade ago, when police fired tear gas and sprayed chemical-laced water at anti-ISA protesters and chased them into seeking refuge at shopping complexes.
Pakatan leaders such as PAS chief Datuk Abdul Hadi Awang sought shelter from baton-wielding riot police as panicked shopkeepers hurriedly shuttered their outlets.
Thousands of protesters scattered along city streets as police fired multiple volleys of tear gas and blasts from water cannon to quell a rally protesting the controversial Internal Security Act (ISA).
Up to 1.30pm, policed had arrested 157 people, Bernama reported.
Hadi Awang had earlier argued with police as his supporters clashed with them at the Sogo complex.
DAP Socialist Youth chief Anthony Loke was earlier arrested there by police, who say 157 have been held up to 1.30pm.
Thousands more are blocked between the National Mosque and Dataran Merdeka where they were to converge with others to protest on the 49th anniversary of the security law that allows detention without trial.
Several major roads leading to the city centre were closed earlier today to prevent groups supporting as well as opposing the Internal Security Act (ISA) from holding illegal assemblies.
Bernama quoted a Kuala Lumpur traffic police spokesman as saying the roads, which were closed from 8am, included the Seremban-Sungai Besi highway, Jalan Kelapa Gading, Jalan Mahameru, Dataran Merdeka, Jalan Travers, Jalan Syed Putra and other roads around Istana Negara.
The closure of Jalan Syed Putra caused a massive traffic jam stretching from Old Klang Road to the slip road leading to Brickfields. The police spokesman, however, said that there was congestion but it was not critical, probably because it was a rest day for many workers.
By 1.30pm, some 200 protesters had gathered at Masjid Negara and police had detained around 60 people who were in possession of anti-ISA material while a leader of the pro-ISA faction was barred from showing his memorandum to the media and asked to leave the Central Market area.
Overnight, police mounted roadblocks and helicopter overflights as they locked down the city while residents braced for conflicting rallies over the controversial Internal Security Act (ISA) that organisers say will culminate with memorandums being handed to the King on the 49th anniversary of the security law.
The one-million-strong Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) is ordering all its members to take part in a planned rally today to protest against the use of ISA, despite police warnings that the gathering would be illegal.
Another rally is being called by two-faced politician Ibrahim 'Katak' Ali to support the law that allows detention without trial, which ironically kept him twice in detention. Police said all rallies are illegal, vowing to ensure they will keep the protesters off the streets.
“We are making it compulsory and commanding all our members to take part in the rally,” PAS vice-president Salahuddin Ayub told reporters yesterday
Despite the order for all PAS members to show up, only 50,000 are expected at the rally which will also be attended by opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, along with PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang and Democratic Action Party leader Lim Kit Siang.
The Abolish ISA Movement, the organiser of the rally, is hoping for a massive turnout to call for the end of a law that allows for indefinite detention without trial while Salahuddin said PAS spiritual leader Datuk Nik Aziz Nik Mat and Abdul Hadi have decreed that the rally was not forbidden in Islam.
“It is not forbidden in Islam as the objective is to abolish the ISA. It is a noble intention,” said Salahuddin.
Protesters will gather at the Sogo shopping mall in the heart of the old city centre here before marching to the palace to hand over a memorandum to Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin, urging him to repeal the Act.
While Salahuddin vowed that it would be a peaceful gathering, the authorities remained concerned about possible tensions arising between the anti-ISA demonstrators and a second group which will also march today in support of the ISA.
Pewaris, an umbrella body of Malay and Muslim non-governmental organisations, will stage its own gathering in Kuala Lumpur to fight for the retention of the security law. It is also planning to march towards the palace.
The Home Ministry has warned that it would not hesitate to take stern action against the participants of the illegal rallies.
“If they violate the law, stern action will be taken against them, no matter if they are pro-ISA or contra-ISA,” Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein warned.
“I will not compromise on this until the security and interests of the country are assured.”
Yesterday, police started setting up roadblocks at key entry points into the city as part of efforts to prevent supporters from entering and causing massive traffic jams around Kuala Lumpur and neighbouring areas.
“All those planning to attend the illegal gatherings must be prepared to face stern action from us, regardless if they are for or against the use of the ISA. We will not compromise as far as security is concerned,” said Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Musa Hassan. KL police chief Datuk Muhammad Sabtu Osman has also warned that police will stop and detain buses suspected of ferrying protesters.
Critics have said that the ISA is being used by the government against political opponents. The government has argued that it is a crucial tool in fighting terrorism and ensuring national security. Human rights groups estimate at least 17 people remain in detention under ISA, mainly for alleged links to Islamic militants and forgery.
Text from Malaysian Insider.
Images from my train ride from Titiwangsa to Bukit Jalil station just now.