Pro-Malay "red shirt" protesters are becoming a regular feature and are in danger of becoming "a nuisance to the police and the public", according to Deputy Home Affairs Minister Nur Jazlan Mohamed.
He told The Sunday Times in an interview that the "red shirts" phenomenon was feeding off growing Malay resentment against stagnant income, the widening gulf between rich and poor, and a more competitive job environment.
"Globalisation has had the effect of offering less opportunities for the Malays," said Datuk Nur Jazlan, adding that automation, especially in the manufacturing sector, meant fewer lower skilled jobs.
He also noted that Malays had access to education but those who were well-educated and went on to university tended to choose general degrees which did not equip them with the skills necessary to work in value-added industries.
Malay families, especially in the lower-income group, tend to have more children, he said. "All these life pressures make them depend on the government more," he said.
The economy, therefore, will play a key role in managing tensions among the various communities, he said. The government is still able to provide subsidies and loans for Malay businesses, but a slowing economy could force it to scale back on entitlements, he said. "For example, there is a freeze on new hires in the civil service from about two months ago," he said.
Meanwhile, another minister has warned that rallies and demonstrations that focus on the interests of only one ethnic group would make it difficult for Malaysia to achieve its development goals.
Tan Sri Joseph Kurup, who is Minister in the Prime Minister's Department in charge of national unity, cited the "red shirt" rally for Malay dignity on Sept 16 as an example of such a gathering.
"National unity is based on shared prosperity. If such (rallies) happen, it makes it difficult to achieve the 11th Malaysia Plan," he told a press conference yesterday after launching a youth programme in Kuala Lumpur.
The red shirt rally on Sept 16, which was touted as being one to assert Malay rights, was held to counter an earlier major street protest - dubbed Bersih 4 - aimed at forcing Prime Minister Najib Razak to step down over a controversy surrounding the alleged mismanagement of state investment firm 1Malaysia Development Berhad.
The de facto spokesman for the red shirts and Umno Sungai Besar division chief Jamal Yunos has said more rallies will be held in the opposition-led state of Selangor, including one in Kajang on Oct 11.