A planned pro-Malay gathering at Petaling Street, also dubbed Kuala Lumpur's Chinatown, failed to materialise yesterday after red-shirt leader Datuk Jamal Yunos was arrested late on Friday over his warnings that there may be a "riot" at the popular shopping and tourist spot.
Mr Mohd Ali Baharom, another pro-Malay activist widely known as Ali Tinju, had insisted the rally was called off on the advice of the authorities. He appeared to distance himself from Umno divisional chief Jamal, despite both having been key proponents of the Sept 16 red- shirt gathering that drew tens of thousands to the streets of Kuala Lumpur in a counter-rally against last month's Bersih demonstration.
"Jamal was the one who said there might be a riot. You should call him and ask why he said that," he was quoted by The Star as saying.
Yesterday morning, it was business as usual in Petaling Street, with traders and hawkers serving shoppers and tourists although a strong police presence added to the regular traffic congestion.
Mr Jamal was arrested by city police despite clarifying that he was not threatening riots, but merely warning that they could take place should the authorities not take action against Petaling Street traders selling counterfeit and illegal items.
He was released yesterday evening, The Star reported.
Both he and Mr Mohd Ali have demanded that the authorities allow Malays to operate in the "Chinese monopolised" area, despite reports that there are Malay businessmen with operations there.
Both have a history of opposing electoral reforms group Bersih, which they accuse of being an opposition-backed movement to overthrow the Malay-led government.
Mr Mohd Ali was also arrested after a video of him accusing the Chinese of insulting Malays surfaced from the "Low Yat brawl", a racial clash that happened in July at the popular IT mall in Kuala Lumpur.
Opposition leaders visited Petaling Street yesterday morning to "show that this is a place that belongs to all Malaysians".
"Whatever form of racism is symptomatic of the jahiliyah (ignorant) people and as a Muslim, we must stand up for unity and fight any divisive elements," Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) vice-president Nurul Izzah Anwar told reporters.
Fellow PKR lawmaker Tan Kwee Kwong said he felt "ashamed" that Chinese ambassador to Malaysia Huang Huikang had to visit Petaling Street on Friday to "tell us how to run our country".
Former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad said yesterday it appeared the government was behind the red-shirt rally, and that the racial undertones were supported by Prime Minister Najib Razak, The Malaysian Insider reported.
Tun Dr Mahathir said that after watching a speech Datuk Seri Najib made about the Sept 16 rally, it appeared as though the Umno president was urging rally-goers to show that the "Malays could do what the others were doing".
"I didn't see the others shouting the way the red shirts were shouting," he said, referring to the Bersih rally that he attended.
"The red shirts were being racist," Dr Mahathir was quoted as saying during a press conference in Malacca.