Najib praises protesters for 'peaceful red shirt rally'

Riot police blocking the entrance to Chinatown from "red shirt" demonstrators, during the rally supporting PM Najib last Wednesday.
Riot police blocking the entrance to Chinatown from "red shirt" demonstrators, during the rally supporting PM Najib last Wednesday.PHOTO: REUTERS

Two days after a racially charged rally of 50,000 in downtown Kuala Lumpur that turned unruly, Prime Minister Najib Razak congratulated the participants for a peaceful gathering, saying there was no racism involved.

 Datuk Seri Najib's remarks were seen as defending the United People's Gathering last Wednesday."Congratulations to everyone who attended the Sept 16 rally," he told a cheering crowd of 15,000 silat (Malay martial arts) practitioners who gathered at Merdeka Square on Friday night.

"Are there any banners promoting hatred to other races? Are there any pictures of opposition leaders that were stomped? We are not like the opposition when they do street rallies. We respect the law," he told the Silat Pesaka Merdeka's gathering.

 Pesaka is the group behind Wednesday's march to counter last month's rally which was organised by electoral reforms group Bersih and drew a predominantly Chinese crowd calling for clean government and Mr Najib's resignation.

The Prime Minister is embroiled in a financial scandal involving US$700 million (S$973 million) deposited into his personal bank accounts that he says is political donations from the Middle East. As chief adviser of the troubled state investor 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), he is also criticised for mismanagement at the fund.

RESPECT FOR THE LAW

Congratulations to everyone who attended the Sept 16 rally... Are there any banners promoting hatred to other races? ...

We are not like the opposition when they do street rallies. We respect the law.

PRIME MINISTER NAJIB RAZAK, to a crowd of 15,000 silat practitioners gathered at Merdeka Square last Friday

Calling Bersih's four street rallies in recent years a slap in the face of Malays, Mr Najib warned that the Malays can rise up when they are insulted.

"The first time we were slapped, we didn't do anything. The second time we were slapped, we didn't do anything… The fourth time, it has exceeded the limits.

"The Malays have rights too… and we can rise up when our leaders are insulted, condemned and embarrassed.

"But the Malays have not gone amok, not yet," said Mr Najib to thunderous shouts and cheers.

A leader of the opposition Parti Islam Se-Malaysia, Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man, yesterday slammed Mr Najib for praising the rally, which he said was "a tactic to stop the people from talking about 1MDB or the RM2.6 billion (in Mr Najib's personal accounts)", reported the Malaysiakini news website.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 20, 2015, with the headline 'Najib praises protesters for 'peaceful red shirt rally''. Print Edition | Subscribe