At May Day rally, Pakatan touts protests as sign of healthy democracy

Anti-GST protesters gathering at the National Mosque before converging at Dataran Merdeka in Kuala Lumpur, May 1, 2014. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
Anti-GST protesters gathering at the National Mosque before converging at Dataran Merdeka in Kuala Lumpur, May 1, 2014. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

KUALA LUMPUR, May 1 — A peaceful rally by thousands of Malaysians to protest an impending consumption tax demonstrated that public dissent has a place in country’s democracy, Pakatan Rakyat leaders said today.

Addressing the protesters from a vantage point atop a lorry, the lawmakers pointed out that the rally sent a clear message to Putrajaya over the imposition of the Goods and Services Tax (GST).

“We should market this as a tourist attraction. Tourists can come every year for a gathering of the people,” PAS information chief Datuk Mahfuz Omar told the crowd here.

“This gathering will give a good impression of the existence of democracy in our country, and sends a good image to the world.”

PAS deputy president Mohamad Sabu also lauded the turnout today, claiming that “street democracy” has been effective in halting unfavourable policies by Putrajaya.

“The Peaceful Assembly Act should have been called the People’s Struggle Act,” said the popular public speaker.

Prominent student activist Adam Adli also lauded the union of the student movement and political parties in today’s rally.

“May 1, 2014 will forever be remembered as a victory for the people and the labour class,” said Adam.

However, the rally today was marred by a minor scuffle between anti-establishment youths and PAS volunteers, after the former group tried to invade the historic Dataran Merdeka cordoned off to rally-goers.

The police also confirmed they are not investigating the rally, although authorities previously said it was in breach of a public assembly law.

Police estimated that around 15,000 people took part in the May Day rally here to protest against the GST, which also saw signs of discontent over Putrajaya’s prosecution of opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and handling of missing flight MH370.

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