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Friday, February 6, 2009

Zambry sworn in after cops put down protest of thousands



UPDATED 4.10pm

By Adib Zalkapli, Lee Wei Lian and Neville Spykerman

KUALA KANGSAR, Feb 6 — Datuk Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir was sworn-in as the new Perak menteri besar by Sultan Azlan Shah today, soon after police fired tear gas and charged at more than 5,000 Pakatan Rakyat supporters outside Istana Iskandariah here.

There was little joy on the streets of this royal town after riot police broke up the large crowd of protesters marching towards the palace across the Perak River after Friday prayers to show their support for Datuk Seri Nizar Jamaluddin, the man whom they feel is still the legitimate menteri besar.

Riot police charged at the crowd and at one point a pitched battle was being fought between the two sides.

The police fired round after round of tear gas, injuring scores including a 10-year-old boy who fainted, as a convoy of vehicles carrying Barisan Nasional leaders, including Umno deputy president Datuk Seri Najib Razak, was trying to enter the palace grounds.

Many in the crowd have now dispersed all over the picturesque Bukit Chandan, where the palace and Ubudiah mosque are located in this royal town, after riot police continued charging at them for half an hour.

The situation remains tense outside the palace as several hundred protesters remain. Many others are still inside the mosque.
An unidentified state Pas representative has now joined police in asking the crowd to disperse.

The crowd had earlier joined Nizar for prayers at the Ubudiah mosque while preparations were ongoing for the swearing in of Zambry.

There was a standoff between riot police and supporters amid chants of "Reformasi" and "Allahuakbar". After failing to heed orders to disperse, police charged the crowd, some of whom ran back to the mosque to seek refuge. Some protestors were seen throwing bottles and other objects at the police.

In an immediate reaction, Perak DAP leader Ngeh Koo Ham said: "I'm very sad that the legitimate, peaceful demonstration in a democratic country was met with force.

"If the expression was peaceful, it should be allowed. It will be more dangerous if they go underground.”

Earlier today Pakatan Rakyat continued its futile bid to overturn the decision of Sultan Azlan Shah.

State Assembly Speaker V. Sivakumar said he would be writing to the Ruler by 3pm to ask for an emergency sitting of the state legislature, and for a postponement of the swearing-in ceremony.

This morning, Nizar was escorted out of his office by Ipoh OCPD Azisman Alias, while other Pakatan Rakyat state executive councillors were also asked to leave their offices, as the state's political impasse continued to take a turn for the worse in what is now a major constitutional crisis.

Nizar was also stopped from giving a press conference in the state secretariat building.

Earlier Nizar arrived at 9.50am in his official car.

"I feel good today. I am going to my office."

Datuk Ngeh Koo Ham was also here. They were allowed into the compound, which was being guarded by hundreds of policemen, while awaiting the swearing-in of Zambry.

It is understood the Pakatan Rakyat government plans to file a legal suit to challenge the legitimacy of a BN government, which they said is a result of a coup orchestrated by Najib.

State executive councillor Nga Kor Ming, who was yesterday asked to resign together with the Menteri Besar, also declared that the new Barisan Nasional government would not last.

"The Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Nizar Jamaluddin has not resigned," Nga told reporters, saying that the Pakatan Rakyat alliance would not recognise the new state government.

He begged Sultan Azlan Shah to reconsider the decision not to dissolve the state assembly.

Nga said the status of the PR administration can only be determined by the assembly after the question on the resignation by the three assemblymen has been solved by the courts.

"That was a very uncivilised, ridiculous way of handling the matter. We have been illegally removed from our office," said Nga, describing the manner in which they were chased out of the state secretariat.

Nga hinted that PR could retake the state soon and did not rule the possibility of BN lawmakers defecting to the alliance.

"I don't rule out the possibility. Let them be happy now, but they will regret very soon," said Nga.

Nizar is expected to boycott the official swearing-in ceremony at the palace in Kuala Kangsar.

Instead, he will be attending special prayers at the Ubudiah mosque, next to the palace. The public has also been invited to attend the prayers.

Nizar refused to resign yesterday when asked to do so by the Sultan, sparking the state's biggest ever political crisis.

But the BN takeover of the state is already a fait accompli, as Zambry is set to be sworn in today as the new MB.

Yesterday, Sultan Azlan Shah announced his refusal to give his consent for the dissolution of the Perak state assembly, and asked Nizar to resign.

As Nizar refused to resign, the post was declared vacant, although some constitutional experts say the proper and legal way for Nizar to be removed would have been through a vote of no confidence in the state assembly.

There are also conflicting views as to whether a Sultan, by convention, has any right to dismiss an MB, or the Yang di-Pertuan Agong a prime minister.

Nonetheless yesterday's decision has paved the way for BN to form the next state government.

The office of the Sultan of Perak, in a statement, said that after meeting all the 28 BN assemblymen and the three independents, the Sultan was convinced that Nizar had ceased to command the confidence of the majority of the state assembly members.

"If YAB Datuk Seri Ir Mohammad Nizar bin Jamaluddin does not resign his post as Perak menteri besar together with the members of the state executive council, the posts of menteri besar and state executive councillors are considered vacant," the statement said.

Before thousands of supporters last night, Nizar pledged "to fight to his last drop of blood" to defend the legitimacy of his government.

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