Scuffle at anti-Rajapaksa protest after bottle thrown at FRU

Demonstrators disrupt traffic by lying on the road, three effigies also burned in second day of protests against presence of former Sri Lankan president at conference

KUALA LUMPUR: Protestors disrupted traffic and a brief scuffle ensued with police in the second day of demonstrations against the presence of former Sri Lanka president Mahinda Rajapaksa at an international conference here.

The protest was organised after it was rumoured that Rajapaksa was to attend the International Conference of Asian Political Parties being held at Putra World Trade Centre.

Malaysian Tamils accuse him of the massacre of 100,000 people during Sri Lanka’s 26-year civil war between the majority Sinhalese and the Jaffna Tamil community.

Today’s protest was led by the Malaysian Indian Progressive Association (MIPAS), which brought some 50 supporters that gathered outside PWTC.

Other Tamil NGOs joined the protest such as Rapat Malaysia Association (RAPAT), VEENAI and MEITA.

The group’s secretary-general, S. Barathidasan, accused Shahidan Kassim, the minister in the Prime Ministers Department responsible for parliamentary affairs, of being the organiser of the conference.

“We want Shahidan to come out. He is the organizer and they’ve promised us that Rajapaksa will get out of the country yesterday,” he said. “Instead, we found out that Rajapaksa was free roaming around with the local police protecting him.”

The group chanted “Shahidan come out!” with Barathidasan accusing the minister of being a coward. “Is Shahidan scared? Why is he collaborating with a mass murderer? Shahidan should be ashamed of himself!”

He said Malaysia should sever diplomatic relations with Sri Lanka, just as it had no diplomatic relations with Israel because of the Palestinian issue.

A minor scuffle also broke out between protestors and the police after a bottle was thrown at the Federal Reserve Unit, causing heavy traffic congestion as the crowd spilled to the road.

Umno Youth exco member Armand Azha Hanifah spoke to several members of the group, including Barathidasan and a few representatives, urging them to disperse.

“We have kept our promise of cancelling all of Rajapaksa’s speeches in ICAPP, then why are you guys not keeping your word?” he said. “It is not our choice to invite Rajapaksa here because we are not the committee of ICAPP, we are just the hosts.”

However, the protestors remained defiant and subsequently laid down on the road in groups, blocking the oncoming traffic, infuriating drivers who blared their horns. Then, three effigies were burnt on the road, similar to one burnt yesterday.

The group dispersed soon afterwards. The protesters vowed to march towards a Buddhist temple in Sentul to continue their protest, based on a rumour that Rajapaksa would be visiting the temple.

A. Elangovan, of the Malaysian Indian Education Transformation Association, urged Buddhist temples in Malaysia to inform the group if any Rajapaksa visit was planned.

Yesterday, a similar protest took place at PWTC, consisting of politicians from MIC, DAP and PKR.


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