Despite arrest of #Merah169 leader, fear lingers in Chinatown

Tourists are spotted around Petaling Street, Kuala Lumpur on September 26, 2015. — Picture by Saw Siow Feng
Tourists are spotted around Petaling Street, Kuala Lumpur on September 26, 2015. — Picture by Saw Siow Feng

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 26 — Despite the police arrest of #Merah169 spokesman Datuk Jamal Md Yunus over his warning of a possible riot today at Petaling Street, Chinese traders at the popular tourist haven do not believe the authorities would act firmly against the Umno man.

When met today, many expressed concern that the Malay supremacy group known as the “red shirts” would return to cause chaos again once Jamal is released from police custody, which they believed was more than likely.

One trader even cited as proof incidents where pro-establishment leaders were let off the hook despite making blatantly incendiary remarks.

While many traders polled by Malay Mail Online said they would no longer be intimidated by Jamal’s threats, they were at the same time convinced that trouble was inevitable if no action is taken against the “red shirts”.

“I just want them (the government) to be fair. Don’t practice double standards, do one community differently and another differently. We just want the government to be fair.

“But who knows? They have arrested people for just saying little things, but those who say really racist things are let go,” a trader by the name of Lian told Malay Mail Online.

The 62-year-old, who has been operating from Chinatown for over 30 years, said many would agree with her that Jamal and other #Merah169 leaders should be charged for trying to incite racial hatred although they were not sure if this would actually happen.

“Unless they take action, I won’t feel safer,” she said.

Double standards?

Putrajaya has been repeatedly accused of being directly or indirectly supportive of Malay racism, with opposition leaders and rights groups often highlighting cases where the authorities fail to penalise Malay leaders who openly issued racist statements.

But while their incendiary remarks often go unpunished, those who dare to spew anti-government comments are often quickly admonished by the authorities, purportedly in the name of national security.

The uncertainties facing Lian also resonated with Melvin Chan, a 34-year-old who runs a Chinese biscuit shop and a famous kopitiam there, who said he still does not feel safe despite Jamal’s arrest, adding that the Umno man could easily return when he is released.

“Now I feel safe but if Jamal gets released then next week or two weeks later he may come back. And then he will start his racist trouble,” Chan told Malay Mail Online.

The trader noted that although there are sufficient laws to deal with people like Jamal, he was not certain if the authorities would use them fairly on the leader.

“I hope they would be fair. We are all Malaysians. They need to think about the future. Think of our grandchildren. Remember they will carry our country’s name,” he said.

The police have beefed up security in the city following Jamal’s riot warning and as at noon today, Dang Wangi district police chief Zainol Samah said it was business as usual so far in both the areas around Bukit Bintang and Chinatown.

A few policemen are seen around Petaling Street, Kuala Lumpur on September 26, 2015. — Picture by Saw Siow Feng
A few policemen are seen around Petaling Street, Kuala Lumpur on September 26, 2015. — Picture by Saw Siow Feng

‘Police did good’

A 26-year-old trader by the name of Megan said the heavy police presence in the area has helped her feel safer for now although she added that she hoped this would not be short-lived.

“I still feel scared, I don’t feel safe as they may come again so I want more police presence. I do feel safe when I see more of them around,” she told Malay Mail Online.

The souvenir trader also complimented the police for “a good job” when they helped barricade the area from the “red shirts” during their September 16 #Merah169 rally.

“I think they did a good job. I hope they will continue doing so,” she said.

Petaling Street or Chinatown was to be the venue of yet another anti-Chinese rally today but the event was called off at the last minute yesterday, shortly after Jamal was hauled in for questioning by the police.

Jamal, who had led a large group of red-shirted protesters during #Merah169, had earlier this week warned that today’s gathering could escalate into a riot if the authorities do nothing to punish Chinatown traders for allegedly selling counterfeits.

The Umno division leader insisted, however, that he is not the person organising the protest. He was arrested yesterday after turning up at the police station to record his statement.