Saturday, August 09, 2008

Protesters rally outside Bar Council (update 2)

By SHAILA KOSHY, ZULKIFLI ABDUL RAHMAN and ROYCE CHEAH

KUALA LUMPUR: A large group of people demonstrating against the Bar Council's forum on conversion to Islam forced the forum to end early after police told organisers to wrap it up over safety concerns.

The group of about 300 people from various non-governmental organisations, including two Opposition MPs, gathered at about 8.20am outside the Bar Council building on Jalan Lebuh Pasar Besar here to protest the forum which they said would undermine Islam.

The group threatened many times to storm into the building if the forum was not stopped.
About 50 police and Federal Reserve Unit personnel lined themselves between the crowd and the building entrance. The police also found two bottles of alcohol by the building that were believed to be unlit Molotov cocktails.

At about 9.15am, Dang Wangi OCPD Asst Comm Zulkarnain Abdul Rahman, went into the building to talk to Bar Council representatives to stop the forum by 10am in the interest of safety.

The group eventually sent Kulim-Bandar Baru MP, Zulkifli Nordin, together with Gabungan Pelajar Melayu Semenanjung and Umno representatives to ensure the forum had ended. While this was going on, Kubang Kerian MP Salahuddin Ayub addressed the crowd asking them to be patient.

When those who attended the forum made their way out of the building, they were greeted with loud boos, obscenities and vulgar words.

Zulkifli later emerged from the building to tell the crowd that the forum had indeed ended and to tell the crowd to disperse and make space for those who wanted to leave.

He shouted "Shutup!" at one point to one particular demonstrator who kept insisting that the Bar Council apologise for having held the forum.

Later, Zulkifli told reporters that asking for an apology was not the issue now and that he had warned the Bar Council from ever holding such forums again.

Asst Comm Zulkarnain said the situation was controlled well by the police and that it still could not be established if the two bottles that were found were Molotovs.

When asked if it was fair to break up a function held in private premises, he said: "We have to. It depends on the level of risk and if the threat is increasing, then we have maintain public order."

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