Sleepy Raub jolted by cyanide protesters

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RAUB: They came from far and wide. The sleepy town of Raub seldom saw any action but the Himpunan Hijau Raub 902 rally yesterday gave local residents a taste of what their counterparts in Kuala Lumpur have to endure sometimes — traffic jams, blocked roads and overwhelming police presence because some people chose to exercise their freedom to assemble.

Although it was meant to be a rally protesting against the use of cyanide at a gold mine in Bukit Koman, the rally organisers decided to march to the nearby mining facility to deliver their memorandum as representatives of Raub Australia Gold Mining Sdn Bhd (RAGM) did not show up to receive it within the agreed time frame.

The 15-minute march, which began at 4pm, scaled a distance of 500 metres along Jalan Tengku Abdul Samad from the football field it was originally held, blocking one lane as police and PAS unit amal escorted the marchers, numbering around 3,000 — many from out of town.

The march only stopped after it was intercepted by Raub district police chief Superintendent Wan Mohd Samsuddin Wan Osman.

After minutes of negotiations, Wan Mohd Samsuddin announced representatives of RAGM were on their way and asked the crowd to be peaceful.

Despite delivering the memorandum, the organisers claimed the representatives were not of sufficient rank and asked Wan Mohd Samsuddin to help deliver it to the RAGM chairman Datuk Andrew Kam.

“The steps I took were to preserve safety and peace. Under that capacity, I accepted the memorandum,” said Wan Mohd Samsuddin.

He said the march was against the conditions of the rally, and that 300 officers were on duty.

Himpunan Hijau Raub chairman Wong Kin Hoong claimed the number of supporters grew to 15,000 while its secretary Chong Pui Har said 80 buses of supporters from across Malaysia came to lend their support aside from those who drove themselves — illustrating many outrsiders were involved in the protests when only about 300 villagers claimed to be directly affected by the cyanide.

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