July 28, 2006 20:18 PM
[size=150]Spray Incident Forces Dr Mahathir To Cancel Speech[/size]
KOTA BAHARU, July 28 (Bernama) – Former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad who arrived here Friday morning for a one-day visit to Kelantan was forced to cancel his speech to an awaiting crowd at the Sultan Ismail Petra Airport when an unknown person sprayed a form of substance onto his face.
He was seen coughing as he stood in a sun-roof four wheel-drive to begin his speech using a loudhailer at about 11 am.
More than 1,000 people had gathered at the airport to wait for the arrival of the former premier.
State Police Chief Datuk Zulkifli Abdullah said police had yet to identify the substance used and that no arrest had been made.
“Investigation will take some time,” he told reporters.
Seeing that Dr Mahathir was coughing badly, a few of his assistants led him out of the four-wheel drive to another vehicle and left the airport.
Several journalists, cameramen and photographers from the local and foreign media who were nearby Dr Mahathir also complained of eye irritation after the incident.
Dr Mahathir’s special officer, Sufi Yusoff, when contacted said, Dr Mahathir’s health was not affected by the incident and that the former prime minister would continue with the programme on his visit as scheduled.
Among those present to greet Dr Mahathir at the airport were former Kelantan Menteri Besar Tan Sri Mohamed Yaacob, former Pasir Mas MP Datuk Ibrahim Ali and former New Straits Times Group Editor-in-Chief Tan Sri Abdullah Ahmad.
Dr Mahathir, who then attended a luncheon at a hotel, was due to attend a programme organised by former Umno elected representatives later in the day before giving a speech at a dinner hosted by the Kelantan People’s Action Council led by Ibrahim.
Speaking to reporters after the luncheon, Dr Mahathir said he expressed regret over the incident which he described as an attempt to prevent him from addressing the crowd.
“I do not know who is behind the incident but the culprit was trying to stop me from speaking,” he said.
Dr Mahathir said the act was not the practice of a nation with a population who were not violent.
Zulkifli, when contacted Friday evening said the police had taken statements from several witnesses and had identified the suspect.
He said the police had not made an arrest and was taking statements from several more witnesses.