Malaysia's opposition pact holds rally against Trump, but draws lukewarm support

The Pakatan Harapan rally drew just over 100 supporters despite the attendance of top Malaysian opposition leaders such as Wan Azizah Ismail and Mohamad Sabu.
The Pakatan Harapan rally drew just over 100 supporters despite the attendance of top Malaysian opposition leaders such as Wan Azizah Ismail and Mohamad Sabu.PHOTO: FACEBOOK/PAKATANHARAPAN.MY

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia's opposition pact Pakatan Harapan (PH) held a rally outside the American embassy on Friday (Dec 15) to protest against US President Donald Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israeli capital.

Led by opposition leader Tun Mahathir Mohamad, the demonstration in downtown Kuala Lumpur was held after Friday prayers, exactly a week after the Malaysia's ruling party Umno and Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS) had their rally which drew over 1,000 supporters.

The PH rally drew just over 100 supporters despite the attendance of top Malaysian opposition leaders such as Wan Azizah Ismail and Mohamad Sabu.

In Jakarta, fewer than 100 people protested outside the United States embassy and burnt US flags, and called for President Joko Widodo to order the American ambassador to leave the country.

There have been near daily protests in Jakarta over the Jerusalem issue.

In Malaysia, the presence of Dr Mahathir, 92, at the rally was still an unusual sight, as he was staunchly against street demonstrations when he was prime minister.

But since breaking away politically from Prime Minister Najib Razak, Dr Mahathir has attended street protests organised by electoral reform group Bersih and candlelight vigils for activists arrested by the government.

"Trump's a bully. He's picking on the weak," said Dr Mahathir to the crowd on Friday. He urged Datuk Seri Najib to confront Mr Trump and tell him: "Hey Donald, stop bullying. Go fight somebody your size".

Opposition politicians and leaders of local non-governmental organisations also spoke at the rally.

Said Bersih chairperson Maria Chin Abdullah: "What President Trump has done is an abomination to the peace of Middle East".

Dr Mahathir called for Muslim countries to "break off diplomatic relations with Israel" but did not express support in calls by certain Muslims to boycott American companies.

"We have to study carefully, because we don't want to cut our nose to spite our face," he told reporters about the boycott movement.

Malaysia's political leaders have denounced Mr Trump's move, with Datuk Seri Najib telling his party members at Umno's annual assembly last week that Malaysia "strongly reject the proposal".

Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi announced separately on Friday that Mr Najib and PAS leader Abdul Hadi Awang will be holding a rally on Dec 22 at the country's iconic Putra mosque in the administrative capital Putrajaya after Friday prayers.

The two former political foes have joined hands last year in a mass protest against the violence towards Myanmar's Rohingya people but maintained that the relationship between Mr Najib and the PAS leader is based on religious grounds.

PM Najib attended the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) emergency summit in Turkey this week to discuss the matter, which included Mr Trump's plan of having a US Embassy in Jerusalem.

On Wednesday the OIC declared that East Jerusalem is Palestine's capital.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY WAHYUDI SOERIAATMADJA IN JAKARTA