Field venue for KL 'red shirts' rally

Participants of the red shirt rally on Sept 16 will march from various areas around Bukit Bintang before gathering at Padang Merbok, says the organiser.
Participants of the red shirt rally on Sept 16 will march from various areas around Bukit Bintang before gathering at Padang Merbok, says the organiser.PHOTO: THE STAR

Police ask organisers to change meeting point from shopping and tourist area to an open field

The Malaysian authorities are moving the assembly point for the so-called "red shirts" rally on Wednesday away from the popular Bukit Bintang district and have asked organisers to seek permission to use an open field next to Merdeka Square instead.

Though the government said Kuala Lumpur City Hall would not approve any street protest, rally supporters were likely to still march from meeting points near Bukit Bintang and pass by Petaling Street - two areas seen as symbols of Chinese business. They would assemble at Padang Merbok, situated between Merdeka Square and the Parliament building.

City police, in a statement last Friday, said they had met the secretary-general of Pesaka (National Silat Federation) and it would apply for permission to use the field.

Federal Territories Minister Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor said yesterday that demonstrations would not be allowed at busy shopping and tourist hubs like Bukit Bintang.

"If the organisers want to use Padang Merbok or other stadiums, they must submit an application," he added.

NO INTENTION TO PICK A FIGHT

Kuala Lumpur belongs to everyone. Not just Bersih. We have no intention to pick a fight. But they have done it not once but four times. So here we are, we want to show that we also have the numbers.

TAN SRI MOHD ALI MOHD RUSTAM, a senior Umno leader and former chief minister of Malacca, on the planned rally

Bukit Bintang is home to a popular IT mall, Low Yat Plaza, where a petty theft case quickly escalated into a racially charged brawl in July.The mall, like most other businesses in Bukit Bintang, said it would be business as usual on Wednesday but with security beefed up.

Police roadblocks were set up in Bukit Bintang and Petaling Street yesterday, but Kuala Lumpur's deputy police chief Law Hong Soon told The Sunday Times it was "a routine spot check" and that there was no need for alarm.

Pesaka yesterday spoke about the rally for the first time since it was mooted nearly two weeks ago as a counter to electoral reforms group Bersih's Aug 29-30 rally calling for Prime Minister Najib Razak to step down. Pesaka's president Mohd Ali Mohd Rustam said his federation was organising the rally to remind the people to respect their leaders. Footage of the Bersih rally, the fourth since 2007, showed some people stomping on pictures of the Prime Minister.

"Kuala Lumpur belongs to everyone. Not just Bersih. We have no intention to pick a fight. But they have done it not once but four times. So here we are, we want to show that we also have the numbers," Tan Sri Ali, a senior Umno leader and former chief minister of Malacca, was quoted by the Malaysian Insider as saying yesterday.

He insisted his rally was open not to those who want to incite racial violence but to all peace-loving Malaysians and should be known as the United Citizens' Assembly rather than the Gathering of Malay Dignity.

He also said that if permission to use Padang Merbok was rejected, Pesaka would withdraw as the rally organiser. But he did not say if this meant it would be cancelled. 

Some Umno leaders have expressed tacit support for the rally.

Mr Najib, who is Umno president, has said his party neither organised nor sponsored the event, but would not stop members from taking part.

However, at least two official letters have been issued by the party asking Umno divisions to mobilise support for the rally, which will start at noon on Wednesday and is expected to last for 12 hours. 

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 13, 2015, with the headline 'Field venue for KL 'red shirts' rally'. Print Edition | Subscribe