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COURT ORDER: Public barred from gathering in the area, warn police
KUALA LUMPUR: DATARAN Merdeka is out of bounds for four days following a court order obtained by police on Thursday night.
The court order bars the public from gathering or organising any activities at Dataran Merdeka from 12.01am today until 12.01am on Wednesday. The areas stated in the order include Jalan Sultan Hishamuddin, Jalan Raja and Jalan Kelab.
The exception is the land occupied by the Royal Selangor Club.
The four-day ban at one of the city’s most popular tourist spots covers everyone, including Bersih 3.0 organisers and supporters and tourists.
Police yesterday warned that anyone who encroached on the area during the four-day period would be arrested and charged with disobeying an order promulgated by a public servant.
City police chief Datuk Mohmad Salleh said police had applied for the order after receiving information that organisers of the Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih) intended to go ahead with their sit-in protest at Dataran Merdeka.
“Despite City Hall rejecting the application to hold the gathering there, police intelligence reveals they are going ahead with it.” Mohmad said road closures and traffic diversions would depend on the situation today. For now, it is business as usual.
He said measures had been put in place and police were equipped to deal with any situation.
On the six locations which Bersih 3.0 had planned to gather, Mohmad said there were no rules prohibiting them from gathering but marching was not allowed and police would not hesitate to act.
He did not rule out the possibility of using tear gas and water cannon if the situation got out of hand. He advised parents not to bring their children to the gathering.
“The court order has been issued and we intend to enforce it. We will not hesitate to act.”
Earlier, Kuala Lumpur Mayor Tan Sri Ahmad Fuad Ismail said they would not be held responsible for the safety of demonstrators if they chose to gather on road pavements near Dataran Merdeka.
“When we rejected their request to hold the sit-in at Dataran Merdeka, the organisers refused to budge on their demands and said they would literally sit on the roads.
“As an alternative, I urged them to sit on the pavements to avoid causing traffic congestion and for their own safety,” Fuad said.
The authorities had offered the organisers four stadiums — Merdeka, Bukit Jalil, Titiwangsa and Cheras — as alternative venues for the protest. These, however, were rejected by the organisers, as they claimed the offers were made at the eleventh hour and that it would be chaotic if the venue was changed at the last minute.
Fuad had met the rally representatives on Wednesday to explain why they could not allow the sit-in to be held at Dataran Merdeka, citing traffic congestion and disruption to businesses.
He also said several other non-governmental organisations such as the Anti-Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (Anti-LGBT), Seni Silat Malaysia and Malay-rights group Perkasa, had also applied to hold rallies at Dataran Merdeka, but were turned down.
"All these applications were rejected as they were not national events to benefit the people," Fuad said, adding that they had to be consistent in enforcing the law.
He said Bersih claimed they only wanted to hold the demonstration for two hours at Dataran Merdeka.
"It doesn't matter whether they want to sit there for five minutes or more, it's still against the law. If no enforcement is carried out by City Hall, people will question our relevance," said Fuad, adding that they are just carrying out their duties.
In response, Bersih said it was adamant about holding the planned sit-in protest, but pledged not to breach the court order.
"We will gather at various points in the city and move as close as possible to Dataran Merdeka," said its co-chairperson Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan at a press conference.
Ambiga was served with the court order at 12.08pm yesterday.
She was of the opinion that under Section 14 (1) of the Peaceful Assembly Act, once the police had receive notification of an assembly from the organiser, it could only impose conditions on the assembly. Additional reporting by Ili Liyana Mokhtar & Lavanya Lingan