On 10 January 2009, Gabungan Anti-Perang Johor (GAPJ), a coalition of civil society groups in Johor Bahru, Malaysia, organised a protest against the wars in Palestine and Sri Lanka. Khalis and Shafi’ie of WorldWithoutWar.SG were in attendance, and the following is their report on the event.
At 5:15pm, about 10 activists initiated a march from the Pejabat Pos Besar opposite the City Square. They were holding 5 banners with messages such as, “Support peace for the Palestinians”, ” War kills more women and kids than soldiers” and placards stating “McD, Pepsi and Coke funds Israel” and “Stop Funding Israeli Army”.
The group proceeded on the pavement along Jalan Wong Ah Fook towards the bridge near Jalan Suleiman and continued towards City Square Shopping Centre, stopping in front of McDonald’s and Starbucks restaurants to distribute leaflets to publicise the issue. Anti-war songs were also sung to help communicate that companies like these have been financing the Israeli army, directly or indirectly. Motorists slowed down and honked while passers-bys joined in to support.
Later on, the banners were placed on the pavement near Plaza Seni, for the public to pen down their sentiments against the violence in Palestine and Sri Lanka. It was evident from the opinions and emotional messages left by the public that they understand and are affected by the crisis that has struck both these regions.
The vigil proper, organised by Gabungan Anti-Perang Johor (GAPJ) / Anti-War Coalition Johor, started at around 7:00pm. Some of the 30 activists gathered performed songs for peace as others arranged candles in the shape of the Peace symbol. Some among the crowd of 100 public supporters joined in the singing as more people came streaming towards to the event. The singing was followed by a reading of the declaration of GAPJ in Malay, Tamil and Chinese by Ms Nina, Ms Shantha and Ms Leong respectively.
Mr Choo, one prominent activist, said in his closing address ” The struggle has not ceased because conflicts still exist. That’s why we have to carry on until there is peace throughout the world”. The event ended with the organisers thanking the public for their support and exclamations of “Bebas! Bebas! Bebas Palestine! Bebas! Bebas! Bebas Eelam!” (Free! Free! Free Palestine! Free! Free! Free Eelam!).
Addenda : Despite the PM Abdullah’s comment that people can demonstrate for peace and against Israeli aggression, 21 activists were arrested in KL at about 9pm. Activists in JB were puzzled as to why the arrest had taken place.
Declaration of Gabungan Anti-Perang Johor (GAPJ)
Anti-War Coalition Johor Against Israeli Aggression Towards Gaza
Israel has launched fresh attacks on Gaza on 27 Dec 2008, with air strikes followed be land assaults. The death toll in Gaza had exceeded 500 and thousands more injured in the Israeli aggression.
The Israeli army’s assault on Gaza is an act of mass murder. The following actions are intended to topple the democratically elected Hamas government.
Since June 2007, Gaza has become the biggest refugee camp in the world with 1.5 million people living in bad conditions, caused by Israel’s economic blockade on essentials such as food, water, fuel and medical equipments.
The latest aggression by Israel have worsened the humanitarian crisis. It is a serious war crime.
The US has to take responsibility on the massacre in Gaza, for supplying Israel with advanced weaponry. The US government had decided to continue military aid to Israel. Support for Israel is an imperialist agenda to dominate the Middle East region.
At the same time, in Sri Lanka, confrontation between the Sri Lanka Army and the LTTE have intensified since the end of the ceasefire agreement by the Sri Lanka government on Nov 2005. More than 4000 lives have been lost since and about 70 000 more lives officially reported dead since the civil war began in 1983. Many victims are Tamil civilians.
The current actions by the Sri Lanka government in closing the ‘trunk-live’ road, disrupting food and medicine distribution and constant attacks on public places have worsened civilian life.
GAPJ supports Palestinians in resisting Israeli aggression that practise apartheid and imperialism.
We demand that:
1) Israeli army retreat from Gaza at once and stop the blockade
2) USA must stop all military aid to Israel
3) US cease “War on Terror” by pulling out troops from Iraq and Afghanistan
4) Sri Lanka government must end attacks on civilians in Sri Lanka
Demand for peace by Palestinians and Sri Lankans is a demand by all!