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Malaysia opposition denounce govt’s takeover of state legislator
Hundreds of black-clad activists protested Thursday in northern Malaysia, defying a police ban and jumping road blocks to denounce the ruling coalition's takeover of a state legislature, reported Reuters.
Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim's alliance took control of northern Perak and four other states in elections last year _ a major upset to the National Front coalition government.
But in February, Najib Razak _ who became prime minister last month _ orchestrated the defection of three legislators from Anwar's alliance, and the National Front moved to form a government in the state.
The struggle for control of Perak has sparked a bitter feud between Anwar and Najib, who is struggling to revive his coalition's popularity, which has slumped amid complaints of corruption, economic mismanagement and racial tensions.
But Najib's move has come under intense scrutiny, raising complaints he is silencing dissent in violation of a campaign pledge to allow more openness.
On Thursday, the National Front convened a meeting of Perak's state assembly for the first time since the takeover and planned to vote on measures to oust opposition representatives from key posts.
Several hundred opposition supporters, many wearing black shirts or bandanas, defied police and gathered in restaurants and shops near the legislature, evading road blocks and barbed wire meant to cordon off the building in Ipoh, Perak's capital.
Riot police arrested at least 25 people, including four opposition members of the national parliament, and seized hundreds of black T-shirts on sale at a stall near a small mosque. The opposition has urged supporters to wear black as a mark of protest.
Veteran opposition leader Lim Kit Siang criticised authorities for turning the area into what he called "a war zone," saying it was "most shameful and outrageous."
Police say the protest is illegal and have secured a court order forbidding people to gather near the building.
Some protesters shouted, "Give the people back their rights!" and scuffled with police.
Turmoil also erupted inside the legislature as the assembly's speaker tried to suspend the National Front's state chief minister and several other lawmakers. They refused to leave, causing legislators from both sides to shout at each other.
Police had arrested two protest organizers Wednesday in hopes of scuttling the protest.
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