'Red shirt' leader agrees to cancel rally in Malacca

PETALING JAYA • A planned "red shirt" rally in Malacca tomorrow has been called off by its organiser, Malay rights activist Mohd Ali Baharom, following pressure from the authorities.

Mr Mohd Ali, a former soldier who heads the Association of Armed Forces Veterans, said he was cancelling the protest at entertainment enclave Malacca Raya out of respect for the state governor whose birthday falls on that day.

He said he had received calls from politicians and the police, urging him to call off the rally.

Mr Mohd Ali had previously said that the rally, which he expected to bring together 10,000 people, was aimed at pushing for justice for a Malay immigration officer who was allegedly beaten up by Chinese gangsters last week in Malacca. He had warned that Malacca Raya "would not be safe", though he later insisted it was not a threat against the Chinese community there.

"The authorities told us to cancel the protest. I respect their advice because on that day, it is the Yang di-Pertua Negeri's birthday, and we will respect his birthday," he said yesterday when contacted by The Star Online.

The gathering was supposed to have been spearheaded by the Gerakan Merah 1Malaysia (Red Shirt Movement) - the non-governmental organisation that Mr Mohd Ali heads. He was among the leaders behind the "red shirt" rally last month in Kuala Lumpur.

In the alleged assault on Sept 30, some 40 thugs were said to have manhandled three of the 19 immigration officers who conducted a raid on a pub.

State Immigration Department deputy director Abu Bakar Sidek Hassan said he has told Mr Mohd Ali not to use the incident as an excuse to hold a rally. He said his men had accepted the incident as a job hazard and brushed off any racial element. None of his men had voiced any grievance to Mr Mohd Ali over the assault, he added.

In response, Mr Mohd Ali said the authorities did not seem to know what had happened.

"It looks like they do not care for their officers' safety. I would like to ask the Immigration (Department) why a police report was not lodged when the officers were assaulted," Mr Mohd Ali said. He claimed people in his group were the ones who pushed for the arrests of the thugs. Police said they have arrested 11 people.

Malacca Chief Minister Idris Haron slammed Mr Mohd Ali for sticking his nose into the state's affairs. He said Malacca has been a melting pot of cultures for centuries and he will not allow anyone to threaten racial harmony.

"We have respected (one another) for many years and those with malice are not welcome here," he said.

THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 09, 2015, with the headline ''Red shirt' leader agrees to cancel rally in Malacca'. Print Edition | Subscribe