Police arrested dozens of protesters including several legislators Thursday outside the assembly of a northern state where the government and opposition are tussling for control.
Hundreds of police officers, including riot control forces, were deployed at the Perak state parliament, which was blocked off with barricades to prevent black-clad protesters from reaching the building.
“It has become a war zone, it’s a national and international disgrace,” said top opposition figure Lim Kit Siang who was turned away by riot police.
“It is more shameful and outrageous because even though we were officially invited by the (parliamentary) speaker we are refused entry,” he told reporters.
Perak has been in political limbo since February, when the Barisan Nasional coalition which rules nationally tried to oust the Pakatan Rakyat opposition alliance which won the state in general elections a year ago.
After defections cost the Pakatan Rakyat its delicate balance of power, the state sultan ordered it to quit but it refused, leading to a standoff until Thursday when the assembly reconvened for the first time.
The coalition was aiming to oust the parliamentary speaker — an opposition appointee who has been blocking its attempts to exert its authority — in order to regain control of the assembly.
Reporters inside the assembly said there was mayhem in the chamber, with legislators shouting at each other and Barisan Nasional representatives refusing the opposition’s orders to leave.
Teo Kok Seong, an opposition state legislator, told AFP by telephone from riot police headquarters in the state capital Ipoh that he was being held along with 30 other activists who had been arrested at the protest.
Some were hauled in for gathering outside the assembly, in defiance of a police ban, while others were dragged out of nearby restaurants.
“This is just ridiculous, how can they just arrest the public like that?” one opposition supporter R.K. Muthu told reporters at one of the restaurants facing the assembly.
“This is just like a curfew area. A fresh state election is the best way to solve all the problems for the past three months, let the people elect their government,” he said just before being arrested.
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