Posted by SM Maulana
MALAYSIA’S opposition-backed protesters vowed yesterday to go ahead with a mass rally against steep increase in fuel prices despite a police warning that it would be illegal.
The hardline stance raised fears of clashes during the rally scheduled for tomorrow amid a politically charged atmosphere.
Mr Hatta Ramli, a protest leader and senior official in the opposition Parti Islam SeMalaysia, said police have been informed about the rally in Selangor.
But protest organisers do not plan to apply for a police permit, required in Malaysia for gatherings of more than four people, he said, urging police not to aggravate the public by breaking up the demonstration.
‘All along, we have been organising gatherings as part of the right of citizens to assemble…It is always peaceful,’ he said.
To calm fears of disturbances, activists moved the rally from a sports field to a stadium, said Mr Yap Swee Seng, a human rights activist and protest leader.
Mr Hatta said activists hope that up to one million people will attend the all-day event, with stage shows and speeches by opposition politicians, including opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim.
Selangor police chief Khalid Abu Bakar warned the public to avoid the gathering, saying police would ‘take the appropriate action’, though he did not elaborate on what measures they would take.
Public anger against the federal government, run by the Barisan Nasional coalition, is already high after petrol prices were increased by 41 per cent and diesel prices by 63 per cent last month. Food prices have also been rising.
Police detained two opposition activists outside a Kuala Lumpur mosque yesterday while they were handing out pamphlets in an attempt to disprove the allegations against Datuk Seri Anwar, said opposition representative Shamsul Iskandar Mohamad Akin.