'Red shirts' march to show Malay solidarity

Demonstrators (left) waving flags and chanting slogans at the rally in Kuala Lumpur yesterday. Although riot police were present to ensure the situation did not get out of hand, some clashes broke out (below).
Demonstrators (above) waving flags and chanting slogans at the rally in Kuala Lumpur yesterday. Although riot police were present to ensure the situation did not get out of hand, some clashes broke out.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Demonstrators (left) waving flags and chanting slogans at the rally in Kuala Lumpur yesterday. Although riot police were present to ensure the situation did not get out of hand, some clashes broke out (below).
Demonstrators waving flags and chanting slogans at the rally in Kuala Lumpur yesterday. Although riot police were present to ensure the situation did not get out of hand, some clashes broke out (above).PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Participants see rally as show of support for Malay power; many businesses in Chinese shopping areas shut

Among the tens of thousands who joined yesterday's pro-Malay rally was retired soldier Nasir Rasyid, a sprightly 80-year-old.

"I came here to show Malay solidarity, that we are still solid as a race. I came here to defend Malay dignity, the nation and the country," said Haji Nasir, who, together with 45 others from his village, had travelled to Kuala Lumpur.

"If Bersih can show off, we can also show off and we can do more as we are ex-military," he added.

Although the rally was belatedly described as being open to all peace-loving Malaysians, those who turned up clearly saw the march through Kuala Lumpur as a show of support for Malay power.

 
 

Many shops in two popular and predominantly Chinese shopping areas in particular, Bukit Bintang and Petaling Street, were closed despite the presence of riot police to ensure the situation did not get out of hand.

Still, a huge group of marchers managed to break through police barricades to enter Bukit Bintang, although they did not approach Low Yat Plaza, the IT mall at the centre of a racial brawl two months ago.

In the evening, however, the riot police had their hands full when hundreds of "red shirts" attempted to enter Petaling Street.

As the crowd grew more impatient and their chants grew louder, some started to hurl missiles ranging from rocks and bottles to traffic cones at the riot police, who then turned the water cannon on them. The red shirts eventually dispersed.

Federal Territory Umno Youth chief Mohd Razlan Rafii blamed agents provocateur for causing the trouble.

"We did not know it was a prohibited zone," he told reporters, even though the authorities had warned in the run-up to the rally that Petaling Street and Bukit Bintang were no-go zones.

Some of the rally participants whom The Straits Times spoke to admitted being ambivalent about the rally's aims.

"I was told to come here from Penang for the Malaysia Day celebration. But I was shocked to see how racist the event is, picking on one race," said 37-year-old Mr Ismail Abdullah, who came to Kuala Lumpur by bus with 31 people.

"As a Sabahan, we never differentiate people according to their race. Everyone is a Malaysian in my eyes and I have many Chinese friends," he added.

He claimed he and the others had been told they would be paid RM200 (S$66) each when they return to Penang.

"I regret coming here... It disturbs the peace. Look, so many shops are shut," he said, pointing to the rows of shops with their shutters down.

He said he saw how some red shirts breached the police barricades to march into Bukit Bintang.

Some scuffles broke out during the march and at least one warning shot was fired.

But for some, like  Umno Ampang division chief Ismail Kijo, there was only one reason to be at the rally: to defend the dignity of Malays.

"We, as Malays, are seeing our dignity trampled. All these bad things said about Prime Minister Najib Razak are lies," he said.

"Najib has done a lot of good things. For example, he is trying to revive the economy. This is for all Malaysians.

"If Umno falls, Barisan Nasional will fall," he added, referring to the ruling coalition .

"I am here to defend Umno and BN."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 17, 2015, with the headline ''Red shirts' march to show Malay solidarity'. Print Edition | Subscribe