Monday, June 16, 2008

Friday the 13th nightmare in downtown KL

By Debra Chong

KUALA LUMPUR, June 13 — Thousands of protestors, about six car lanes wide and almost 100 metres long, took to the streets of Kuala Lumpur to express their dissatisfaction against the federal government after being hit by a series of price hikes in the last few months.
It started at 2pm, right after Friday prayers, in the compound of the "legendary" Masjid Jamek in Kampung Baru, about 3km away from the national oil company, Petronas's headquarters in KLCC.

The original idea was to walk from the mosque to KLCC along Jalan Raja Abdullah, turn into Jalan Sultan Ismail and Jalan Ampang before stopping at the main entrance of the iconic building.

But PKR Youth chief Shamsul Iskandar had received word of heavy police presence at KLCC. So they resorted to Plan B.

Instead of KLCC, their end destination was the Sogo shopping mall along Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman, another artery in the heart of the hectic city.

Despite the mass of people, it was a relatively peaceful protest. They walked and chanted many slogans, like at a sports meet.

"Tumbang BN! Tumbang Umno!" "Turun harga! Undur PM! Hapus rasuah!" "Allah hu akhbar!"

The masses moved as one, like an assault of locusts, steadily and swiftly along Jalan Raja Alang, bypassing the police blockade on Jalan Raja Abdullah, chanting themselves hoarse.

The police helicopter hovering rather low overhead failed to drown out their chants.
Adding to the din were the honking sounds of passing motorists, expressing their support.

It took them roughly 20 minutes to reach the heart of hearts, the crossroads of Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman and Jalan Dang Wangi, where Sogo meets another iconic building, the Odeon cinema.

Mimicking the father of all peace protestors, Mahatma Gandhi, the crowd proceeded to sit down on the road to demonstrate their anger against the government's announcement last week. The fuel increase has caused a whiplash reaction - food sellers have hiked up prices, causing great and immediate hardship on the low-income groups, meaning those who earn under RM1,500 a month.

"The rakyat's message is clear" cried Riduan Mat Nor, Youth central exco member, over the loudspeaker.

He continued to address the now silent crowd, even as the police personnel looked on from the five-foot ways.

"If the price doesn't go down, the rakyat will bring Umno and Barisan Nasional down," announced Riduan to vociferous cheers from the sitters. Even as the water cannon truck idled ominously in the shade some 50m away on Jalan Dang Wangi.

Almost half an hour later, he wrapped up the sit-down protest with a prayer in the middle of the crossroads.

The men, and some women, held out their hands in front of their faces before getting up and continuing their march to a parallel road – Jalan Raja Laut, where PAS has an office.

There, they shouted some more slogans for another 20 minutes before moving off and on with their lives.

The FRU trucks, meanwhile, were stuck in traffic at the other end of one-way Jalan Raja Laut. They were 15 minutes behind time.

Today, being Friday the 13th, was a nightmare for the federal government and poor, unsuspecting motorists caught in the jam, but a major success for the protestors. After all, they managed to stop traffic on a working weekday in the heart of Kuala Lumpur city. The point had been made.

Jeraul : macam-macam zaman tengah gawat ni....



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