An “anti-Bersih” rally will go ahead on Wednesday in Kuala Lumpur with an expected heavy police presence.
KUALA LUMPUR: A”red shirt” rally that has sparked fears of ethnic clashes is expected to go ahead on Wednesday (Sep 16) amid a high police presence, after organisers confirmed a venue.
The National Silat Federation (Pesaka) received the green light from the Kuala Lumpur City Council to hold the “anti-Bersih” Himpunan Rakyat Bersatu (United Citzens Rally) at Padang Merbok on Malaysia Day, a day to mark the formation of the Malaysian federation in 1963.
Some 250 Malay NGOs pledged support for the rally, which they said was aimed at countering last month’s Bersih protest, where tens of thousands hit the streets of Kuala Lumpur calling for institutional reform and the resignation of Prime Minister Najib Razak.
Malay groups said the rally disrespected Malay leaders and ethnic Malays, who make up the majority of the population in peninsular Malaysia, and they want to teach minority “Chinese from opposition party DAP” a lesson.
Malaysia’s Inspector General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar said that the rally’s organisers have complied with legal requirements so it is permitted to go ahead but there will be a high police presence to ensure public safety and order.
Messages have been circulating on social media and messaging services warning non-Malays to stay away from the city centre over fears of ethnic clashes.
But the police chief said the public should not worry as authorities will be on standby and will be monitoring the speeches for seditious content.
“We are capable of ensuring security and safety … Don’t believe the messages circulating that Chinese shouldn’t come out,” said Khalid. “To me, these are the actions of people who want to purposely create fear among ethnic groups.”
Last week, Prime Minister Najib acknowledged that some leaders and members of his party UMNO planned to participate in the rally, though they were not organising it. He said UMNO did not support anything of a racist nature but he would not be directing members to not participate.
Malay solidarity aside, many say they are attending the rally to show support for their prime minister, and other UMNO leaders. Najib continues to be plagued by allegations of corruption, despite his repeated denials.
No charges have been brought against him so far.
Now, a 2006 murder scandal he was linked to in the past has resurfaced. The Prime Minister says a recent current affairs programme about the murder of the Mongolian translator Altantuya is yet another step in a plot to oust him from government.
Malaysia’s police chief agrees, as was seen in his heated exchange at a news conference on Monday with a journalist from Al Jazeera which produced the programme.
“You are trying to confuse the people, you are trying to create something else from nothing … Whatever it is, we are commencing our investigation on Al Jazeera,” said Khalid.
This was not the first time Malaysia has linked the media to a plot to discredit Najib.
In July, the Prime Minister threatened to sue the Wall Street Journal, and the government also blocked access to the Sarawak Report website after both news outlets published allegations that some US$700 million had been channelled into his personal bank accounts in 2013.
MALAYSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER CONDEMNS “TIT-FOR-TAT” RALLY
Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman said the planned Sep 16 rally should not be in retaliation to the Bersih protest.
“Bersih 4.0 was made illegal and I believe should ‘Himpunan Rakyat Bersatu’ have an objective that is not about unity and celebrating Hari Malaysia then it too should be made illegal,” said Mr Anifah.
“There is also no harm in wearing a red shirt on Hari Malaysia if it is to celebrate Hari Malaysia and represent unity among all races, however should it be worn just for provocation then that I believe is wrong – the same way wearing the yellow shirt to create provocation is wrong.”
He added: “Hari Malaysia should not be about racial, political nor religious hatred. We must embrace the true meaning of Hari Malaysia.
“An unguarded tit-for-tat action or reason can be detrimental to the peace and harmony enjoyed by Malaysians and no doubt effect the economic well-being of the country. We as a nation must be above these kind of narrow minded thinking.
“Hari Malaysia is for all Malaysians to demonstrate their love for the country and not to instigate hatred nor racial supremacy.”