Saturday, 7 March 2009

Police use tear gas to break protest march...

...against the teaching of Maths and Science in English

Riot police fired tear gas into a huge crowd of 8,000 people taking part in a protest march from Masjid Negara to Istana Negara this afternoon. - Malaysiakini

The march was organised by the coalition against the teaching of science and maths in English (GMP). GMP, known in its Malay name as Gerakan Mansuhkan PPSMI, is a coalition of 14 NGOs. Some of its pro-tem committee members include opposition politicians.

Police had earlier cordoned off the road leading to the palace, firing rounds of tear gas at the crowd as they approached the palace.

However, two GMP leaders - national laureate A Samad Said and former Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka director Hassan Ahmad - managed to get past police cordon to hand the coalition’s memorandum to the king.

The memorandum states that the people are seeking royal intervention on the controversial policy, which is said to be implemented at the expense of mother tongue education.

The march started at the Masjid Negara at 2 pm sharp after zohor prayers and protesters overpowered a dozen riot police who tried to seal off the entrance of
the mosque.

Many protesters were donning T-shirts with the words 152, in reference to Article 152 of the Federal Constitution which states that Bahasa Melayu is the national language.

At 2.40pm, the first round of tear gas was fired from the inter-section between Jalan Syed Putra and Jalan Mahameru, a stone’s throw away from the palace which was guarded by a dozen of riot police and two water cannons.

A handful of protesters reacted by charging at the riot police who fired the projectiles.

Eye-witness reports of at least one riot policeman being injured while his shield was smashed to bits.

This was followed by several dozen volleys of tear gas fired on the protesters scattered throughout the vicinity. Motorist trapped in the traffic gridlock were seen choking in their vehicles.

At 3.15pm, several hundred protesters retreated to the National Mosque where more tear gas were fired. Chemical-laced water cannons were also used.

Several arrests were made and according to the Star Police detained 124 people for questioning. Among those spotted in the crowd were Pas President Datuk Seri Hadi Awang and Mohd Sabu.

Meanwhile, the Star quoted Inspector General of Police Musa Hassan as saying in a report today that during police discussions with GMP, it was decided there would not be any rally.

“They agreed to send representatives into the Istana after zohor prayers but when political parties like PAS and PKR got involved, it became an illegal gathering and demonstration.

“We have no choice but to use tear gas to disperse the crowd who refused to listen to police warnings,” he said.

The teaching of science and maths in English was controversially implemented in 2003 by then Prime Minsiter Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

Many linguists and teachers have complained that the new policy was flawed and was especially detrimental to rural students who have limited grasp of English.

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