5 things about Malaysia's 'Red Shirt' rally

"Red Shirt" demonstrators gather for a rally to celebrate Malaysia Day and to counter a massive protest that called for Prime Minister Najib Razak's resignation over a graft scandal. PHOTO: REUTERS

Just two weeks after a mass rally demanding the resignation of Malaysia's prime minister, another big rally is taking place on Wednesday (Sept 16) in Kuala Lumpur - this time to show support for the government.

Here are five things about the 'Red Shirt' rally:

1. Who is the organiser?

The National Silat Federation (Pesaka) is the organiser of Himpunan Rakyat Bersatu, or United Citizens Gathering. The rally has been referred to by several names over the past weeks, including Himpunan Maruah Melayu or Malay Dignity Gathering and "Red Shirt" rally.

The reference to red shirts first emerged on Aug 25 when a group of men wearing red shirts, led by head of Malay non-government organisations, Datuk Jamal Md Yunos, performed a demonstration in front of Sogo in Kuala Lumpur in response to the rally planned by electoral reform group Bersih on Aug29-30.

2. What is the objective?

Pesaka has said it is organising the rally in response to the Bersih 4 rally attended by tens of thousands of people demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Najib Razak over financial scandals involving state investor 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

Footage of the Bersih rally, the fourth since 2007, showed some people stomping on pictures of the Prime Minister. Many Malay critics have denounced the Bersih rally as part of an attempt by the Chinese to usurp political power.

The Pesaka president has said the rally on Wednesday is to remind the people to respect their leaders and is open to all races.

3. Where will it take place?

Participants will gather at four meeting points - the National Mosque, Federal Territory Mosque, Putra World Trade Centre, where Umno's headquarters are located, and the Craft Complex. They will then march towards Padang Merbok.

4. Who will attend?

The organiser expects some 30,000 participants from 250 non-government organisations. Despite Umno's denials, links to the party persisted after two letters came to light recently. One asked all divisions in Malacca to send at least 1,000 members each to support the rally, while the other revealed that Sept 4 meeting of state-level representatives to plan for the protest.

5. What do the authorities say?

Police had earlier declared the rally illegal and said that it would not allow the gathering go on. But on Monday (Sept 14), Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar said the rally was legal under the Peaceful Assembly Act after organisers obtained permission from Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) to use Padang Merbok for the gathering. He also assured the public that the police will protect the safety and security of everyone in Kuala Lumpur, urging Malaysians not to believe rumours calling for non-Malays to stay away from the city because of possible riots on the day of the rally.

On Tuesday, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi warned those taking part in the rally to stay away from racial sensitivities or face action. Mr Zahid, who is also Home Minister, said the participants must not bring banners and posters with words that touch on racial sensitivities and other matters stated under the Sedition Act.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.