Malaysian police vowed to crack down on an opposition-led rally on Monday, seeking to subdue growing dissent, as opposition figure Anwar Ibrahim prepared to meet police over sodomy accusations against him.
Looking to avoid a repeat of Anwar-led protests a decade ago which drew tens of thousands onto the streets, police obtained a court order to prevent a mass gathering outside parliament, where the opposition plans to call for a debate of no-confidence against Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.
Police also mounted roadblocks in several parts of the city and put security personnel on standby, local newspapers reported. Helicopters circled overhead at the parliament building.
"The rally, being illegal, could be moved anytime so we have to be ready," police official Abdul Khalid Abu Bakar was quoted as saying by the New Straits Times.
The political drama could further scare off foreign investors who have shunned Malaysian assets on fears a sudden shift in government and policy could scuttle Abdullah's efforts to clean up the civil service and judiciary.
Abdullah's Barisan Nasional coalition faces its worst crisis in 50 years, hit by public anger against rising prices, a series of political scandals and a revived opposition snapping at its heels.
The prime minister has tried to fend off calls for him to quit to take responsibility for a dismal showing by the coalition in a March poll by promising to hand over power to his deputy Najib Razak in mid-2010.
Anwar, the de facto opposition leader, will give a statement during the day to police investigating allegations of sodomy made against him by a former aide, the New Straits Times reported.
Anwar was sacked as deputy prime minister in 1998 and then jailed for corruption and sodomy after leading street protests against then premier Mahathir Mohamad's government during the Asian financial crisis. The Supreme Court overturned the sodomy conviction six years later.