KUALA LUMPUR: Thousands of protesters turned up in front of the National Mosque to support the handing over of a memorandum on the Selangor state water issue to Yang di-Pertuan Agong Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin at Istana Negara.
All roads leading to the palace and the mosque were guarded and blocked by police causing a massive traffic jam in various parts of the city.
Before the protest, Parti Sosialis Malaysia chairman Dr Nasir Hashim, party secretary-general S. Arutchelvam and Shah Alam Councillor A. Sivarajan were arrested on their way to the mosque but were immediately released.
Most of the demonstrators, who were wearing red T-shirts, held flowers as a sign of peace but were chanting loudly, creating chaos at the vicinity of the mosque.
The protesters who gathered from noon waited for the arrival of Selangor Mentri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim who gave a speech at the mosque before proceeding to the palace and handing over the memorandum bearing 150,000 signatures to a palace official at 2.10pm.
Among the contents of the memorandum was to request the King to order the rights over water resources, now handled by Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor (Syabas), to be returned to the Selangor state government and for the King to review the objectives of the Water Services Industry Act 2006.
Water has become a controversial issue in the Pakatan Rakyat-led state and currently there is a stand-off between the state government and the Barisan Nasional-led Federal Government over the earlier proposed Pahang-Selangor raw water transfer project.
The Federal Government said 1,890 million litres of raw water would be pumped daily from Sungai Semantan to the Hulu Langat water treatment facility in Selangor while Khalid said there was no need for haste as there was enough water to meet the demand until 2019.
City police chief Deputy Comm Datuk Zulkifli Abdullah said about 4,200 participated in the protest and confirmed that 58 men were detained and released after questioning.
He was disappointed that after Khalid had delivered the memorandum, a group of political leaders and supporters continued to march to the palace.
He added that it took the police an hour to control the crowd and some protesters had provoked the police by throwing stones at them.
DCP Zulkifli said those wearing red T-shirts were approaching the Kuala Lumpur railway station when the Federal Reserve Unit (FRU) personnel blocked them and that police had to fire over 20 tear gas and water canons on the protesters when they refused to disperse.
Klang MP Charles Santiago alleged he was among the 58 men who was detained after being beaten up by the FRU.
He claimed that a few others including a young woman and an elderly man were also severely beaten up.
Everyone dispersed at about 4pm after discussion between Pakatan Rakyat leaders and the police.-thestar.com.my