KUALA LUMPUR • Malaysia has added a ban on clothing that is yellow and which contains the words "Bersih 4" to a clampdown on printed materials promoting today's Bersih rally.
The move, announced yesterday, prompted immediate reactions, despite a growing nervousness that the police might follow up the bans with mass arrests.
Bersih chairman Maria Chin Abdullah called on Malaysians to bravely don yellow T-shirts despite the ban. "I would like to say, there is nothing wrong in wearing the Bersih T-shirts," she told Malaysiakini. "We are not going to the streets to defy the government but instead to demand reform. We want an advancing Malaysia."
But a notice in Thursday's government gazette said the bans were permitted under the controversial Printing Presses and Publications Act, to ensure national security.
The Act gives Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who is also Deputy Premier, wide-ranging powers over print media, books and any other form of publication, and the ability to prohibit items, including the 35,000 T-shirts that Bersih has sold ahead of the demonstration.
Those found possessing such items can be fined up to RM5,000 (S$1,680), and those guilty of producing or distributing them can be jailed for up to three years.
The order, which took effect yesterday, appears to allow the authorities to clamp down at will on the tens of thousands expected to turn up in KL today wearing the signature yellow colour associated with the electoral reform group.
Datuk Seri Zahid described the items as being "likely to be prejudicial to public order, likely to be prejudicial to security, likely to be contrary to any law and likely to be prejudicial to national interest", and therefore "absolutely prohibited throughout Malaysia".
Still, there was minimal police activity as of yesterday evening. Previous Bersih rallies saw spot checks by police on those entering KL the day before the planned gatherings.
The authorities have planned road closures for Independence Day rehearsals from this morning. The Bersih march begins at 2pm.
Bersih sold the yellow T-shirts for RM20 apiece, accounting for a large chunk of the RM2 million it had raised prior to the gathering.