Malaysian police cited security concerns for refusing to allow pro-Malay rights individuals to hold a rally on Sept 16 to counter the recent one by Bersih, but an Umno grassroots leader said they would still go ahead.
The Himpunan Rakyat Bersatu (United Citizens' Assembly) rally has attracted attention on social media, especially as some posters put up around Kuala Lumpur depicted graphic violence against the Chinese community. Pro-Malay elements, dubbed red shirts, have accused Chinese supporters of the Bersih rally of trying to usurp political power from the Malays.
"Police will not permit the rally for security reasons," Deputy Inspector-General of police Noor Rashid Ibrahim told reporters at an event in Penang yesterday. However, should the rally be allowed to take place, he pledged that 2,000 officers would be deployed to ensure that it does not disrupt the peace or cause damage to property.
Bersih's Aug 29-30 rally drew tens of thousands of people to the vicinity of Merdeka Square to call for the resignation of embattled Prime Minister Najib Razak.
The rally was marked by low Malay attendance but attracted one of the largest known turnouts by traditionally politically passive ethnic Chinese in an anti-government protest, a fact not lost on pro-Malay elements.
Umno-owned newspaper Utusan Malaysia repeatedly called the rally a bid by the Chinese community to wrest political power and, on Sunday, pressed the authorities to allow the red shirt rally to take place, saying it was necessary to counter a Chinese-dominated Bersih.
Umno grassroots leader Jamal Yunos said the rally would proceed despite the police ban.
"We see Bersih was banned but they went ahead with it," he told Malay Mail Online yesterday. He was quoted in another report yesterday as saying 300,000 supporters of Malay non-governmental organisations would attend the Sept 16 rally, and that its organisers would make an announcement today.
Datuk Jamal, Sungai Besar's Umno division chief, himself headed a red-shirted group that put on a "self-defence" display in front of a shopping mall just days before Bersih's rally. Members clad in red T-shirts broke wood and roof tiles on one another's backs and heads.
On Aug 30, Mr Jamal also vowed to gather one million people for a rally on Oct 10 to show support for Datuk Seri Najib's leadership.
Several opposition leaders and even Umno's ally, the Malaysian Chinese Association, have urged police to take action, saying the Sept 16 rally is intended to stoke racial strife. But some Umno leaders, including Cabinet ministers, said they would support the gathering if they were formally invited. The rally reportedly will be held in largely Chinese areas in Kuala Lumpur.