Party leaders urge Malaysians to stay united as country marks National Day after protests

The crowd at the Bersih rally in Merdeka Square in Kuala Lumpur at around 11.30am on Aug 30, 2015.
The crowd at the Bersih rally in Merdeka Square in Kuala Lumpur at around 11.30am on Aug 30, 2015.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG
Protesters at the Bersih rally near Masjid Jamek station on Sunday, Aug 30, 2015.
Protesters at the Bersih rally near Masjid Jamek station on Sunday, Aug 30, 2015.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Malaysia's ruling party leaders have urged the country to remain united and embrace the founding spirit of the nation as the country celebrates its National Day on Monday (Aug 31).  

Barisan Nasional (BN) component parties - including the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA), Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC) and Gerakan - made this call in their National Day messages. Their statements came after a weekend which saw thousands protesting in the streets of Kuala Lumpur in rallies led by organiser Bersih.

MCA president Liow Tiong Lai urged the people to stand united for a stronger Malaysia as they face new trials and economic challenges.

“At the end of the day, we are all Malaysians. Rather than heed those who seek to divide us with thoughtless words and actions, let us instead break down walls of distrust and disunity as we work together to build a better nation, economically and socially," Datuk Seri Liow said in his National Day message. 

“It’s time to rise and protect our greatest strength, our multiculturalism as we strive to evolve into a developed, mature society," he added. 

MIC president Datuk Seri S Subra­maniam, in his message, said freedom, unity and goodwill in multiracial Malaysia is paramount and he called on Malaysians, especially the young generation, to remember how the forefathers had fought for the country.

"We need to recognise that the independence we have today is the result of the struggles of leaders who have fought until the last drop of their blood to defend this country," he said.

Gerakan president Mah Siew Keong said that the nation had been engulfed in "a contentious state that courted unwanted controversies, divisions and shenanigans" for far too long.

"We find ourselves embroiled in constant polemics and politicking that have in turn drained our precious time, focus and energy that should have been dedicated to more worthy causes," he added.

He urged Malaysians to once again embrace the founding spirit of the nation as a "reminder of our duty to the country".

He added: "We must show unity, strength and vitality that we once proudly possessed and professed during the dawn of nationhood. These national ethos must not be casually forgotten nor taken for granted."

Bersih, an electoral reform group, organised the weekend rallies to protest against what it said were attempts by Prime Minister Najib Razak to muzzle criticism and to stifle investigations into claims that he had received state funds in his personal accounts.

Tens of thousands of Malaysians clad in the group's yellow shirts had turned out for the two days of weekend demonstrations that were largely peaceful.

A scuffle ensued at the Dataran Merdeka area in Kuala Lumpur late on Sunday after someone apparently threw firecrackers at the protesters, injuring four, but the man was quickly cornered by demonstrators and the police arrived to calm the situation.

Influential former leader Mahathir Mohamad visited the protests on both days, where he called for a "people's power" movement to oust Datuk Seri Najib over the financial scandal.

His attendance led a non-governmental organisation, known as the Non-Pensionable Army Veterans Association of Selangor, on Sunday to lodge a police report against him. According to Bernama, association president Raja Kamaruddin Raja Ab Wahid said Dr Mahathir's attendance in the rally was "akin to encouraging the people to participate in it".

Meanwhile, police on Monday denied that Bersih chief and activist Maria Chin Abdullah was arrested after the weekend rallies ended.

A news portal had claimed that the Bersih leader was arrested at about 12.40am on Monday to facilitate investigations.

City police chief Tajuddin Md Isa described the report as irresponsible and baseless. "We did not arrest Maria. I don't know where they got their details from," he said.

Comm Tajuddin urged the public not to circulate unverified reports to avoid provocation.