Police act the spoilers at PAS ceramah

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A PAS ceramah organised at the eleventh hour in Kepala Batas last night nearly turned unruly when about 100 police personnel suddenly popped up at the scene.

A fraction of the 600 strong crowd at the event responded by immediately forming a barricade and shutting off the iron gate in front of the party's operations centre in Pongsu Seribu.

The uniformed men comprising about 50 Light Force Strike personnel arrived about 10.15pm, to be greeted with shouts of "here they come, police have come, shut the gate!"

Others were more provocative, teasing "come in and get us" as the police stood by their trucks, parked on the side of the road, causing a bit of a traffic jam.

A group of PAS security officers donning yellow safety jackets tried to calm the crowd by keeping them away from the main road, and at a safe distance from the men in uniform.

The ceramah's facilitator (announcer) told the crowd not to "panic" as the event was held within PAS' premises, adding "they cannot do anything as this is our own land".

"If they were to come into our premises, they would be considered encroachers," he added.

The Bersih-related ceramah was prompted by sms, Facebook and e-mail messages circulating in Penang after Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng announced that two state government events yesterday have been postponed until July 10.

Heavy handed acts continue

Lim was forced into the decision after Penang police chief Ayub Yaakob otained a court order to halt the events planned for Sungai Nibong (Pesta site) and Seberang Jaya (Expo site).

Ayub had also threatened stern action against those who participated in yesterday's intended functions, describing them as "illegal assembly".

Speakers for the events were supposed to have included Pakatan Rakyat heavyweights such as Lim, PAS deputy president Mohamad Sabu, and Bersih 2.0 chief Ambiga Sreenevasan.

However, only Bukit Tambun assemblyperson Ong Chee Wen, PKR Youth leader Amizuddin Ahmat, PAS Kepala Batas commissioner Rosdi Hussain and LLG Cultural and Development Centre chief Toh Kin Woon (right) were spotted at last night's do.

On stage, Toh explained Bersih's eight-point agenda to the crowd, saying that he was a non-partisan focused on promoting free and fair elections within the country.

He added that he would have spoken at any ceramah - whether BN or Pakatan - as long as he was invited to do so.

"I would have attended even if MCA invited me to their event but they never did," added the former Penang state exco and Gerakan leader.

At the ceramah's end, Toh was escorted safely to his car by PAS security officers.

The police action is part of a national dragnet to nab Bersih campaigners ahead of the NGO's planned rally on July 9 in Kuala Lumpur.

Police earn hawkers' ire

The rally, expected to draw thousands from several NGOs and political parties, has been deemed illegal assembly by the police.

So far more than 100 people have been arrested or questioned for expressing intent to attend the function or for selling or distributing its paraphernelia.

The ceramah continued right up to midnight without any untoward incidents, although some were clearly uneasy with the heavy police presence.

They made their dissatisfaction known by hurling snide remarks at the police, who were equipped with headgear and batons.

Despite the show of force, PAS supporters dismissed the Home Minister Hishamuddin Hussein's warning   by selling Bersih's striking yellow T-shirts during the ceramah.

Two men who were spotted wearing the controversial tees managed to escape the police's wrath.

However, traders at the pasar malam within the premises blamed the police for disrupting their businesses by causing massive traffic jams.

"Everything was peaceful until they come to disturb us," said a drink seller in his early 30s, who only wanted to be know as "Man".

Another businessman, A Rahman, said the police action of lining up in front of the PAS centre was "bad" as this was one of the only venues through which the communtity could express themselves.

On whether traders would lose their livelihood if 'Opposition" ceramahs were held in their area, the trader replied in the negative, asking "How much money do these people want?"

"We are usually happy if we can earn enough. This is called rezeki - sometimes we have a little, sometimes more...this time it is our turn (to get money), next time, it is someone else's, " he said.

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