KUALA LUMPUR • Prime Minister and Umno president Najib Razak said yesterday the ruling party will not stop its members from taking part in the Sept 16 "red shirts" rally, even as national police chief Khalid Abu Bakar insisted the pro-Malay rights gathering will not be allowed to proceed.
"Umno is not involved in sponsoring the rally but we admit there are leaders who represent their respective NGOs who feel they have to be at the rally," Datuk Seri Najib said after chairing an Umno Supreme Council meeting, the Malaysian Insider reported.
Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, similarly, put it down to members' "individual rights" on Tuesday when asked whether Umno will bar members from going to next Wednesday's rally.
NO GO FOR RALLY
The police have made evaluations on the safety and security as well as public order and we will not allow them to continue with the rally in the areas planned.
TAN SRI KHALID ABU BAKAR, Malaysia's police chief
He also sought to play down the government's role in endorsing the rally, saying the police are completely in charge of enforcement, the Malay Mail Online reported.
"The government has no opinion," Datuk Seri Zahid, who is also Home Minister and Umno vice- president, added.
The Himpunan Rakyat Bersatu (United Citizens' Assembly) rally is aimed at countering the recent "yellow T-shirts" Bersih demonstration but has come under fire from Umno's political allies and rivals.
The Malaysian Chinese Association, Umno's partner in the Barisan Nasional coalition, has denounced the rally to be held in the Bukit Bintang shopping area, which is popular with tourists.
The opposition Democratic Action Party's parliamentary leader Lim Kit Siang yesterday accused Mr Zahid of having double standards.
"Can Zahid explain why he is now talking about the 'individual rights' of Umno members to attend the red-shirt rally when he had threatened punitive action against those who attended the Bersih 4 rally?" Mr Lim was quoted as saying by the Malaysian Insider. Bersih 4 refers to the fourth rally organised by the electoral reforms group since 2007.
"Furthermore, why the government has 'no opinion' on the rally when he was so gung-ho and hawkish in his condemnation of the Bersih 4, even personally signing the order to ban the use of yellow T- shirts?" he added.
Messages calling for Malays to defend their dignity at the rally have been circulating on social media.
The Inspector-General of Police, Tan Sri Khalid, said yesterday he has ordered the Kuala Lumpur police chief to meet the organisers to dissuade them from going ahead. So far, the identities of the organisers remain unknown.
"The police have made evaluations on the safety and security as well as public order and we will not allow them to continue with the rally in the areas planned," Mr Khalid said.
Critics have branded the Bersih demonstration as one dominated by the Chinese to challenge the political power of the Malays.
Malay rights activist and Umno grassroots leader Jamal Yunos was quoted by Umno-owned daily Utusan Malaysia as saying that the rally was a response to the "many slogans insulting the Malay leadership" at Bersih's rally. Footage showed some people stomping on pictures of the Prime Minister.
Datuk Jamal, chairman of Gabungan NGO-NGO Malaysia, advised non-Muslims to avoid being in Kuala Lumpur on the day of the rally in case of provocations.
Mr Jamal, who is also Sungai Besar Umno division chief, had said the rally is supported by 500 Malay non-governmental organisations.
But a number of Malay and Muslim interest groups have distanced themselves from the rally, notably the opposition Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) and Malay rights group Perkasa. PAS also did not take part in the Bersih rally.