SHAH ALAM — Assailants set off flares in a hall here today where Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was speaking and attacked some of the forum participants with chairs and bottles.
In what was believed to be a staged attempt at sabotaging the “Nothing to Hide 2.0” event, bottles were also thrown at the audience members when the former prime minister was taking questions from the audience.
A mass brawl was sparked off after security members were forced to retaliate.
Dr Mahathir, stunned by the chaos, just stood and watch as the tussle between the assailants and the security forces spread across the hall and prompted innocent bystanders to flee for safety.
Moments after the brawl started, security personnel quickly escorted the former prime minister, his wife Tun Dr Siti Hasmah and other national Pakatan Harapan leaders to the rear exit of the Raja Muda Musa Hall.
No police officers were seen during the fracas.
A security member from Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia’s (PPBM) Youth wing, Armada Bersatu, said they suspected that the assailants were hired by some elements within rival party Umno to cause trouble.
“We received intel that they were planning to cause problems,” the party worker said.
“We realised this when we saw hundreds of youths that are not members of Armada but had Armada tees on… we feared something would happen,” he added.
Most of the suspects appeared to be youths in their early 20s.
The chaos erupted just after a member of the audience asked Dr Mahathir to explain the “Memali incident”, asking the former premier if the force used against the Memali protesters by the police at the time was justified. More than a dozen people had died in a clash between followers of a Muslim sect and the police in Memali, Kedah, in 1985.
“They (protesters) only used knives and sharpened bamboos Tun? How can you justify (the force)?” the man asked with a hostile tone.
Dr Mahathir, responding calmly, said, “Four policemen were killed. What do you think they killed them with? What the police did was proportionate with the threat, it was their SOP”.
Just as the audience expected the forum to resume with the next person in line ready to take action, a commotion broke out as one assailant threw his shoe in the direction of Dr Mahathir.
As more joined in the fracas and a brawl ensued, some of the assailants began lighting up flares and one was seen flying across the hall just before the stage where the PPBM chairman was at.
PPBM’s security workers eventually managed to repel the group of troublemakers to the exit and later apprehended three suspects.
There were reports that the suspects were assaulted by the PPBM mob before they were handed over to the police.
PPBM youth chief Syed Saddiq Abdul Rahman, addressing the media later, said they were confident that the chaos was premeditated and called for the police to take stern action against the assailants, including those from his own party if they had resorted to violence.
“There was definitely an element of sabotage and also an attempt to hurt Tun Dr Mahathir because… the bottles, shoes and later flares were thrown not to the sides or back, but to the front towards Tun Dr Mahathir,” he said.