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'Padang Merbok off-limits to opposition for rally'

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NO GO, SAYS MAYOR: Several reasons cited for decision

KUALA LUMPUR: PADANG Merbok is off-limits to the opposition's planned June 22 "Blackout 505" rally.

Kuala Lumpur Mayor Datuk Seri Ahmad Phesal Talib in explaining City Hall's decision yesterday said this was because the open space would not be able to accommodate a large gathering.

He listed several other reasons why the City Hall had to reject Pakatan's application to use the field for the rally, including that it had already been booked for a June 23 event by the Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM).

"OCM needs the field a day earlier to prepare for its event and had applied to use the venue at the end of last year. They hence have priority," he told reporters at his office here.

The opposition's earlier application to hold the rally on June 15 at the same venue had been rejected as it was booked for a marathon organised by the Public Cleansing Management Corporation.

Phesal said following discussions between City Hall and the police, they could not allow the open space to be used. He urged the opposition to consider closed-door alternatives like Stadium Titiwangsa or Stadium Merdeka as previous rallies had been held there successfully.

"Padang Merbok is located at the heart of the city where traffic is usually heavy and the opposition wants to hold the rally from 11am to 6pm. Those are peak hours for the city."

He also said Jalan Parlimen, where the field is located, had recently undergone a landscape beautification and that since the stretch was a "protocol road" to Parliament, it needed to be preserved.

City Hall will issue a letter to the opposition today, outlining the reasons why its application to use Padang Merbok had been rejected.

"City Hall and the police have given the green light for the rally to be held on June 22, there is only one dispute -- the venue. However, we will send them an invite to sit down this Friday to work out a mutually agreeable solution."

The opposition yesterday announced it had decided to move back the date of its final Blackout 505 rally (from June 15 to June 22). PKR strategic director Rafizi Ramli said the revised date was final and that a notice for the rally had been sent to City Hall last Friday.

The loose coalition, he said, took into consideration the appeals made by organisers who had booked the premises earlier, as well as advice from the police.

"We have submitted the 10-day notice the City Hall two days after the request for the June 15 rally was given," he said at the PKR headquarters, adding that the opposition would not budge from the date and would submit a notice for the new date of the rally to the police today.

Kuala Lumpur Mayor Datuk Seri Ahmad Phesal Talib telling the media why City Hall is not approving the opposition’s request to hold its rally at Padang Merbok. Pic by Saifullizan Tamadi


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