Malay MPs arrested

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian police said Tuesday they had arrested 14 protesters including opposition lawmakers after they launched a hunger strike to protest the government's takeover of a northern state.

Perak has been in crisis since February when the sultan ordered the Pakatan Rakyat alliance, which forms the national opposition, to cede its control of the state after defections disrupted the delicate balance of power.

The Barisan Nasional, which rules nationally, swore in a new chief minister in Perak but control of the state has swung back and forth through a series of court decisions.

Thomas Su, an opposition state lawmaker who was taken into custody with 13 other protesters, said they were hauled in after launching a three-day hunger strike aimed at pushing for fresh elections to end the impasse.

"We were having a group photo session after the launch when the police moved in and said we were having an illegal assembly and arrested us," he told AFP by telephone from a police station in state capital Ipoh.

"We will continue to fast from the police lock-up as we want to send out our message that the Perak voters must be given the right to elect their government," he added.

Perak police chief Zulkifli Abdullah confirmed to AFP that 14 protesters had been arrested.

News website Malaysiakini also reported that five workers from an event management company were arrested ahead of the launch, as they were setting up a canopy for the event.

Chaos erupted earlier this month when Perak's state assembly was convened for the first time since February.

Dozens of protesters were arrested outside, while in the chamber the opposition's speaker was forcibly removed from his chair and dragged out of the parliament, triggering a melee as legislators tried to shield him.