KUALA LUMPUR • Malaysian police yesterday took into custody a former soldier who led a group of Malays to demonstrate at the Kota Raya shopping centre last week - following reports of a cheating incident involving a shop selling smartphones - which led to a brawl.
Mr Mohd Ali Baharom, a Malay rights activist and former soldier, is being probed for his call to boycott the mall last Friday, in a case that harked back to the racially charged brawl at Low Yat Plaza in July.
Two days after his call, about 20 men, believed to be Malays, rushed into the complex to attack Chinese smartphone traders in one shop. The fight, involving the use of sticks, helmets and chairs, was recorded and posted on YouTube.
Two people were hurt. Police said they have arrested a man involved in the fight. The suspect, a parking attendant, was arrested at the shopping complex after the fracas was brought under control.
"There were about 20 men who came with sticks and helmets and got into a fight with about eight workers in the shop," said Criminal Investigation Department chief Deputy Superintendent M. Gunalan. "From what we can see, only one table was smashed by the brawlers and a few (mobile phones) are missing."
The case revolved around an alleged cellphone scam by one shop in the Kota Raya mall.
Media reports said a man was reportedly lured to buy four cellphones for RM800 (S$260), only to be detained against his will and forced to pay RM10,000 after withdrawing money using his automated teller machine card. Police said they have not received a report on the alleged cheating case.
Responding to the brawl, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said that if there was any instance of a commercial crime or cheating involved, it should be reported to the authorities. "Don't take the law into your own hands," he said on his Facebook page.
Mr Mohd Ali, who is widely known as Ali Tinju or Ali the Boxer, raised tensions further when he said on Monday that any reaction to the brawl by the Chinese will lead his men to "rise".
"We will observe first. If there's any sign of the Chinese rising, we will oppose. We will rise to defend," he was quoted as saying by news website Malay Mail Online (MMO).
He is also the leader of the Merah (Red) 1Malaysia group, which says it defends the rights of the Malay majority.
"I support 100 per cent the actions of customers who are dissatisfied, because I 100 per cent blame the Chinese merchants who are unethical, irresponsible, (who) blackmail, cheat and twist facts. (They are) what should be punished really," he was quoted as saying.
"Hitting is not right but we can't talk because they are angry and emotional. Maybe it's the way the seller was insolent when speaking to Malays," he told MMO.
In the July incident at IT mall Low Yat Plaza - located about 2km away from Kota Raya - a Malay man who was allegedly stopped from stealing a cellphone later led his friends to attack the traders there.
The incident escalated into a racial brawl, forcing riot police to step in before it could escalate into a racial riot.
THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK