The Malaysian police took a 180 degree U-turn after cameras and publicity and abandoned plans to invade Libyan embassy and forcibly eject protesting students. Photo: Jazeera reporter Sami Allawi (far right) with mobile phone camera caused Malaysian diplomatic police to re-think planned use of force
Kuala Lumpur (IMTnews) — Two students among 35 occupying part of the Libyan Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia have been hospitalised, one from the effects of a hunger strike.
The student had been one of three on hunger strike for a week as part of the 15-day protest against unexpected grant cuts by the Ministry of Higher Education.
Ali L. Elgayar, president of the group ‘Libyan Students in Malaysia’ said that, after a seven-day hunger strike, the student experienced heart problems and was taken to hospital. He has been in hospital for three days and his condition is now understood to be stable.
Another student, forced to sleep outside because of limited space indoors, has been hospitalised after contracting dengue from a mosquito bite. His condition is also understood to be stable. The embassy room occupied by the students is only big enough for 10 people, so many students are sleeping outside.
Two further protesters on hunger strike have consumed only water and juice for 11 days.
“I have asked them to stop the hunger strike,” said Elgayer, “but they refuse to listen. We are watching them very carefully and will send them to hospital immediately if they become ill.”
The police have tried to evict the students under orders of the Libyan Ambassador in Malaysia, Abubakr al-Mansouri, however this failed in the first attempt as reported by IMTnews earlier.
Elgayar said: “The Ambassador gave orders to the police to go into the embassy. He wanted the police to pull us out in any way, even using force.”
Another student, Ahmed, confirmed this, saying that although there has been a police presence since the beginning of the protest, they only became officially involved at the end of last week.
“The Malaysian police were ready to use force,” he said, “this was on the Ambassador’s order by official letter, which the police showed to the students.”
Elgayar said, however, that the students sat on the ground inside the embassy and told police: ‘If you need us out you will have to pull us out, we will not go easily.” According to Elgayar, embassy staff intervened, saying: “No, we cannot watch this, we cannot watch the Libyan guys being pulled out from inside the embassy,” and the Police retreated to their position outside.
The ambassador has gone to Mecca on Haj on an all-expenses paid by the Libyan regime. He has refused to see the students, who have been occupying one room in the embassy since October 9th.
“He knows about the hunger strike but the Ambassador doesn’t care,” Elgayar said, “he only needs the embassy to work right and he doesn’t care about the students, the scholarships or their problems.”
The students have received no response from the Ministry. “We have a response only from the Libyan Congress,” Elgayer said, “and they had a meeting on Monday with the Ministry of Higher Education. But they refused the request from the students, they refused even to listen to the legislators.” He added: “I think the congress guys will come to Malaysia after Eid.”
This is now confirmed with the Libyan “General National Congress” members expected to visit Kuala Lumpur regarding this problem possibly Monday 5th November after visiting Australia where they are visiting in an attempt to resolve a problem with a second group of protesting students in Australia.
El-Gayar met the Malaysian police on 24th October and was informed that they must vacate “before Eid” and that the Malaysian police would enter the Libyan embassy irrespective of it being Libyan territory and would use force to get the students out.
However, after Jazeera reporter Sami Allawi was called and showed up inside the embassy with camera to record the action, the police covered up their name badges and withdrew evidently shocked at the publicity after Malaysian media have refused to cover this major diplomatic incident in the center of their capital city.
Malaysian media have been completely silent on the protest entering its third week with three hunger strikers.
The students in Malaysia have been protesting since 9 October about cuts to their grants. There were originally some 70 protesters, but numbers fell when police refused to allow students to re-enter the embassy after leaving to buy supplies.
Elgayar explained: “We complained about this to the police chief and we asked him to allow some students to go out to bring food otherwise we will die inside, so they arranged that three students are allowed to go out, just to bring in food.”
Some 1,500 Libyan students studying abroad have been affected by the grant cuts. It is reported that in Australia, a similar protest led to the reinstatement of their full grants. Another group of Libyan students in Australia has however now also taken up protest.
With the 180 degree U-turn by Malaysian police in the face of publicity and the failure of the Al-Jazeera reporter to heed their warnings not to cover their eviction of the Libyan students and their invasion of Libyan territory, the police have now decided not to take action and are reduced to three men in a bus.
The Malaysian diplomatic police have changed their tune to saying that this is a Libyan affair on Libyan territory among Libyan citizens and that they will not enter the embassy by force. The Libyan diplomatic staff have not showed up to work since 3 weeks, using the occupation as an excuse not to show up for work along with the absence of the ambassador.
Prior to the threat of media coverage and the report by Sami Allawi of Jazeera TV the Malaysian diplomatic police were contacting the students each day in efforts to pressure them to abandon their protest. Since the report, they have not made contact even once, and their large presence has been reduced to 3 men in a bus outside the embassy.
There are around 27 student protesters still inside the Libyan embassy in Kuala Lumpur refusing to leave. The protest began one day after a mystery man visited the embassy and called from the security gate and questioned the staff about the insecurity in Libya saying he wanted to “confirm the stupidity of the rats.”
Sources indicate that the embassy staff are worried about their security given the current situation in Libya which is highly unpopular and the ongoing peaceful protest at the embassy.
The students are from various Libyan regions and are students in numerous cities across Malaysia, many with families that are suffering as a result of the cuts and the protest. The cuts would mean wasting one or two years of study and finances as studies would have to be abandoned and students return to Libya unqualified.
The students have vowed to continue the protest but have since stopped the hunger strike given that the Libyan regime does not care if they should die and had already ordered their forceful eviction, with the ambassador leaving on the morning he handed a letter to the police asking them to intervene.