Police Tear Gas Protestors Demanding Fair Elections in Malaysia
The protestors gathered to pressure Prime Minister Najib Razak’s government, in power for almost 55 years, to change the rules of elections to make them fairer. The Associated Press reports:
“Authorities insist the elections will be free and fair, rejecting activists' claims that the Election Commission is biased and that voter registration lists are tainted with fraudulent names.”
Prime Minister Najib stated:
“If (elections) are not clean, not fair, show the evidence…We do not want to be elected through cheating. We are a government chosen by the people.”
Both this statement and rally come almost a year after a demonstration involving 20,000 protestors was also dispersed by tear gas. At the demonstration Saturday, however, in contrast to that of July 2011, only 200 protestors were detained, as compared to more than 1,600 last year.
The peaceful protest was disrupted when one group appeared to cross police barriers, at which point the police “began firing tear gas and water laced with stinging chemicals at the crowd.”
“Baton-wielding police backed by trucks mounted with water cannon sporadically fired tear gas at some demonstrators for at least an hour before much of the crowd was dispersed. People fled into streets and stores nearby, leaving shoes, bottles and other belongings scattered on the ground.”
Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein, however, stated that “police acted with utmost restraint and efficiency.”
According to Reuters, after the police began using tear gas against the protestors, the demonstrators “battled with police,” “throwing bottles and chairs at officers who responded by firing tear gas rounds,” and overturning a police car that had collided with demonstrators.
Human Rights Watch has condemned the police action, saying that “by launcing a crackdown on peaceful…protestors on the streets of Kuala Lumpur, the Malaysian government is once again showing its contempt for its people’s basic rights and freedoms.”