No hiccup on first day of Bersih 4 rally

No hiccup on first day of Bersih 4 rally
PHOTO: The Straits Times

KUALA LUMPUR - The temperature was high but all heads were cool as the first day of the Bersih 4 rally passed without any major incident.

Not for the first time, the rivers of yellow flooded the streets of Kuala Lumpur demanding change, with participants chanting, waving flags, carrying banners, blasting air horns and singing Negaraku.

While the police were there, they were unintimidating on a day that ran smoothly from all corners.

The rally was notable by the absence of tear gas and water cannon and free of Federal Reserve Unit personnel.

The only blot came when a group of protesters tried to breach the barricades outside Dataran Merdeka, which has been declared out of bounds before the National Day celebrations tomorrow. However, the organisers managed to persuade the group not to go ahead with their intrusion.

Another surprise came at about 7.30pm when Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and his wife Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Mohd Ali showed up. They were mobbed by the crowd near the City Hall building.

After about 10 minutes, the couple were ferried in a police patrol car to their vehicle some distance away.

The crowds started assembling early at designated locations throughout the city, including at Sogo, Menara Maybank and Brickfields, although the event was scheduled for 2pm. At Masjid Jamek and Central Market, thousands gathered by 2pm.

Many participants marched towards Dataran Merdeka but it was barricaded. They settled in the areas outside it.

The rally reached its peak at around 4.30pm at the makeshift stage set up near Dataran Merdeka.

Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng, PKR president Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail and PKR secretary-general Rafizi Ramli gave speeches to the crowd.

Near the Masjid Negara, Gerakan Harapan Baru (GHB) chief Mohamad Sabu and DAP leader Lim Kit Siang also spoke to the crowd.

During her address, Bersih 2.0 chairman Maria Chin Abdullah said Malaysians wanted change.

"After Bersih 4, there is a lot more work to do. This is something that we need to do together," she added.

The crowd began to thin out by 5pm, with many leaving due to the heat.

However, they later returned for the night after a dinner break.

As at 1.30am, some were seen trying to bed down for the night while others continued to blare at their vuvuzelas.

Motorists driving into the city were stuck in a 6km crawl due to roadblocks.

Star Radio Traffic reported a roadblock approaching the 63.3km from Bentong Timur to Bentong toll as well as at the Gombak toll heading towards Kuala Lumpur.

There were also roadblocks after the Sungai Besi toll and along Persiaran Saujana Kajang.

Earlier, there was a minor fire near Federal House in Dataran Merdeka after a plastic bottle tied to fire crackers was thrown at tents set up for the National Day celebrations at around 6pm but this was quickly put out.

Bernama reported that the police official website was temporarily inaccessible from 8.20pm after a hacking attempt. It came back on at 9.34pm.

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