Minister says #Merah169 rally a 'great success', downplays racial insults, unrest

The crowd chants while listening to a speech at Padang Merbok in Kuala Lumpur, September 16, 2015. — File pic
The crowd chants while listening to a speech at Padang Merbok in Kuala Lumpur, September 16, 2015. — File pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 17 ― Umno minister Datuk Abdul Rahman Dahlan declared the #Merah169 rally yesterday a “great success despite incidents where racial insults were hurled at reporters and riot police firing water cannons at unruly protesters.

Abdul Rahman downplayed these incidents, saying that it was “nothing” compared to what occurred during last month's Bersih 4 rally.

“The rally is a great success, the reds have proven they can do it much better than Bersih.

“Although I am personally not very fond of rallies, but today nothing untoward happened,” he told Malay Mail Online when contacted.

“Bersih rally (participants) brought out brooms, recited funeral prayers and stomped on pictures of leaders,” Abdul Rahman explain, referring to the incident where Bersih 4 participants stomped on pictures of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang.

“(Racial insults, use of water cannons), it is nothing compared to what Bersih did.

“Perhaps the police used water cannons because they thought things would get out of control, I do not want to second-guess the police here,” the Kota Belud MP added.

Late into the rally police said were attended by as many as 50,000 people, Federal Reserve Unit officers used water cannons on protesters trying to force their way past a security cordon at Petaling Street.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak yesterday criticised unruliness at the #Merah169 rally, saying that police should investigate the incident that marred an otherwise uneventful protest.

The prime minister did not specify the incident in question, but was likely referring to the Petaling Street flare-up.

“Was informed that the rally in KL ended peacefully except for an incident. Polis Diraja Malaysia ( Royal Malaysia Police ) should investigate. It should not have happened. All must abide by police instructions,” Najib wrote on Facebook today.

The Petaling Street incident was not the only clash between  protesters and police, however, as #Merah169 attendees earlier charged police lines repeatedly along Jalan Bukit Bintang in an attempt to reach the Low Yat Plaza shopping mall.

Thousands of red shirted people were bussed into the federal capital yesterday for the rally officially called “Himpunan Rakyat Bersatu” or the United People’s Assembly, but which caused concern among traders in the city centre and ethnic Chinese business leaders.

The protest was also marred by sporadic outbreaks of racism, with one attendee recorded calling a reporter “Crazy Chinese pig”, among other insults.

The rally, said to be in support of Najib’s leadership, was to counter last month’s mammoth two-day Bersih 4 gathering calling for the prime minister’s resignation.

The ruling Malay party has insisted that it does not endorse the event, which has also been alternately called “Himpunan Maruah Melayu”, but did not prohibit its members from participating in the demonstration organised by martial arts group Pesaka.

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