KUALA LUMPUR - Several hundred protesters marched peacefully in Kuala Lumpur's city centre on Saturday (July 31) to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin.
Roads around Merdeka Square, where National Day parades were often held, were sealed off as protesters dressed in black took to the streets. The demonstration was organised by a coalition of youth and civil society groups, called the Sekretariat Solidariti Rakyat (People's Solidarity Secretariat).
Some brought mock corpses wrapped in white cloth to symbolise the high number of daily Covid-19 deaths in Malaysia, in a criticism of the government's handling of the pandemic.
The coalition is also calling for a full parliamentary sitting and automatic bank loan moratoriums to ease hardship fuelled by the ongoing Covid-19 lockdown.
Malaysia's daily Covid-19 cases hit a new record high on Saturday, the last day of the month, at 17,786. This was more than doubled the 6,988 cases notched on July 1.
Traffic police and plainclothes police were seen standing by at the scene, The Star reported. Some marshals donning white safety hats and medics wearing red safety hats were also present.
City police chief Azmi Abu Kassim warned that those who violated Covid-19 health protocols would face police action.
According to The Star, the Commissioner, Datuk Azmi, said the police have not received any application or notice from the organising committee of the proposed gathering.
District police said on Saturday that they would call up the organisers and those who took part in the rally.
"Under the Movement Control Order, no public assemblies are allowed including social gatherings, and sports activities," Mohamad Zainal Abdullah, police chief for Dang Wangi district, told a news conference.
He said police estimated about 450 people attended the rally. The organisers claimed 2,000 people participated.
Youth activist Sarah Irdina, 20, said she was detained for nearly 11 hours, two days ago, over her Twitter posts about the planned protest.
"This failed government's inhumane treatment of those that fight for a better Malaysia is what keeps hurting us Malaysians, when their job is supposedly to protect us. This is why we #lawan (fight)," she wrote on Twitter on Friday (July 30).
The protest comes as PM Muhyiddin faces a constitutional crisis amid pressure to step down after clashing with the King, Sultan Abdullah Ahmad Shah.
The palace on Thursday insisted that the King did not endorse the government's unilateral move to withdraw the ordinances under the state of emergency which he proclaimed in January. The state of emergency is due to expire on Sunday.
There had been calls, even from Mr Muhyiddin's own allies in Umno party, for him to quit.
The protesters dispersed peacefully after two hours, police said.