Mat Sabu confirms opposition rally at Stadium Merdeka tomorrow

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KUALA LUMPUR (Jan 11): Organisers of the Himpunan Kebangkitan Rakyat have confirmed that tomorrow's mass rally will take place at Stadium Merdeka as planned.

In a polite rebuff to a suggestion by the Police Chief Datuk Mohamad Salleh that the venue be moved to Stadium Bukit Jalil instead, Himpunan president Mohamad Sabu said the final stage of preparations were already being made at Stadium Merdeka, which was also easily accessible via public transport.

"There has been much speculation over the venue but I would like to clarify that it will be Stadium Merdeka," the PAS deputy president, also known as Mat Sabu, told a press conference at the party's headquarters this morning.

"All the participants have been asked to take public transport into the city and Stadium Merdeka is close to bus stops and train stations. It will be too far to ferry people to other locations."

Mohamad Salleh had yesterday mooted the idea of a change in venue over concerns that Stadium Merdeka lacked the capacity to accommodate the one million-strong crowd that the rally organisers are hoping will show up. The capacity limit of Stadium Merdeka is 30,000.

Batu MP Tian Chua, who was also present at the press conference, acknowledged Salleh's concerns but assured that there were already plans and preparations in place should the crowd swell beyond the stadium's capacity.

"We can manage it well," he said, but did not give details. However, he stressed that of greater importance is that participants proceed calmly and peacefully from the nine checkpoints to the stadium.

These checkpoints are Amcorp Mall, Masjid Ar Rahman in Jalan Pantai Baru, Brickfields, KLCC, Kelab Sultan Sulaiman, Central Market, Jalan Sultan, Masjid Negara and Dataran Merdeka. Pakatan Rakyat leaders will be leading each group from the respective checkpoints to Stadium Merdeka.

Police had said that Dataran Merdeka would be closed to the public.

"We would like to formally extend our appreciation towards Salleh and will reciprocate by strengthening our efforts to work together with the police to ensure that the rally takes place peacefully," Tian Chua stated.

He added that the participants would also be walking and not marching to the stadium as agreed in the 27 conditions set by the police and signed by the rally organisers at the Dang Wangi police station yesterday. Mat Sabu had said on Jan 9 that there would be no marching on Saturday.

When asked about the difference between "marching" and walking", Tian Chua explained that the police definition of the former was large groups of people walking without a pre-determined destination and making pit-stops to shout slogans and waving flags. "In this rally, people are just coming from their homes to converge in one place," he said.

The organisers further said that 10,000 members of PAS' Unit Amal would be deployed in the area tomorrow to work alongside the police to ensure peace and public safety. Mat Sabu however brushed off questions of an exact plan of action should they lose control of the crowd, saying, "All that is just speculation".

Rally organiser Hishammuddin Rais later told that security would be "very, very tight" and that they would be on a constant alert for any "dodgy people". "These are people who behave in an unruly manner to stir up trouble, and who loiter outside the four main roads (Jalan Hang Jebat, Jalan Stadium, Jalan Maharajalela and Jalan Changkat Stadium)," he said when pressed for a description of such people.

Hishamuddin outlined the rally's itinerary for tomorrow which will begin with singing the national anthem, Negaraku, at 2pm. This would be followed by speeches by NGOs and Pakatan Rakyat leaders and the reading of the 112 Declaration.

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