KUALA LUMPUR - One of the organisers of the "red shirt" rally in Kuala Lumpur held on Wednesday has hailed it as a success, saying many people had turned up to support the country's leadership and the Constitution.
Tens of thousands of people had turned up at the rally on Wednesday, which was held in support of embattled Prime Minister Najib Razak and aimed at asserting the Malays' political power.
"More than 350,000 came for the rally. It was a success," Malay NGOs coalition president Datuk Jamal Yunus was reported saying by The Star newspaper at a press conference on Thursday (Sept 17).
Although the protesters were Malays, Jamal said the rally showed that the people were united and that non-Malays did not come because there were provocative messages being circulated on social media.
"Many were misled by pictures and videos on social media saying there will be fight and riots. Look at Padang Merbok yesterday, it was peaceful," he said, referring to the field in the heart of Kuala Lumpur which hosted a gathering of some of the protesters.
He claimed that the rally had not only been attended by Umno members, but also those of opposition parties Parti Islam SeMalaysia and Parti Keadilan Rakyat.
Wednesday's rally - made up of mostly pro-Malay groups - was largely peaceful, although a crowd at Petaling Street turned unruly and clashed with riot police, forcing the police to disperse them with water cannons. It was held to counter last month's massive Bersih protest, which called for Najib to step down over a funding controversy and was attended largely by Chinese.
Jamal said the protesters would gather again if Bersih holds another rally. He added that the groups would also join them and make their feelings known should the Bersih rally be held.
Jamal also said the altercations between protesters and police at the rally was a small incident and stemmed from provocative messages.
He alleged that a group called Otai Reformasi had distributed pamphlets containing provocative messages around Petaling Street on Wednesday and it riled some of the protesters at the rally.
Though the group at Petaling Street was not linked to his coalition, Jamal pledged to help them and defended their behaviour, claiming that the crowd was unhappy over the mostly-Chinese traders in the area because of the goods they were selling.
"Firstly, they do not like the traders selling fake goods, illegal and porn CDs...Secondly, there are many foreigners doing business there. I do not see any Malaysians there. Thirdly, Petaling Street is a tourist area. You should be selling our products and crafts ... Not fake stuff!" he said.
"Lastly, why were such pamphlets distributed. I saw many on the streets. That's why protesters were riled," he said to reporters.
Jamal also said he would hold talks with officials from the Domestic, Trade, Co-operatives and Consumerism Ministry about the issues in Petaling Street.
He warned that if any action was not taken, the protesters would come back to Petaling Street again. "The protesters said more than 10,000 will come again if nothing happens but the date is not known yet," he said.
Jamal also urged the police to investigate the Petaling Street fracas but told them to be fair during investigations.
"Do not just blame the protesters. Also look at the Otais. They provoked these guys... Be fair to them," he said.
He reiterated that the protesters were not enemies with the Chinese traders and they were there looking for Otai Reformasi members.
Jamal had been brought in to speak to the crowd and eventually managed to get them to disperse at about 7.15pm on Wednesday.
Police had also blocked access to Petaling Street and Bukit Bintang during the rally.