SATURDAY’S rally against the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) at Dataran Merdeka in Kuala Lumpur turned out to be a call for Malays to unite to regain federal power in the next election.
Organised by Umno, PAS, a coalition of Malay-Muslim groups Ummah and the newly-formed National Sovereignty Secretariat (Daulat), the rally’s initial objective was to hold a ‘selawat kesyukuran’ (thanksgiving prayers).
But there were hardly pats-on-the-back in the kick-off speeches by leaders of Umno, PAS and the other non-governmental organizations, Instead they appeared to go straight for the throats of the ruling Pakatan Harapan government.
Intent on turning up emotions of the rally participants, the early speeches turned bitterly emotional as Umno deputy president Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan claimed that since Barisan Nasional (BN) lost the May 9 polls, the Malays have not been respected by other communities.
“People do not respect us because we have lost power,” he said. “The Malays must unite to regain power in the coming 15th general election.”
NAJIB QUIET AT RALLY
Former Prime Minister Najib Razak was greeted by shouts of “Hidup Najib” and applause from some of the rally-goers. However, he did not take to the stage as he is not part of the many non-governmental organisations (NGOs) or one of the political leaders scheduled to speak at the rally.
But as the rhetorics continued, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad appeared unconcern with the predicted-mammoth anti-ICERD ‘thanksgiving’ rally, sarcastically thanking the “one million” people who turned up at the event.
Official police estimates put the turnout in the Malaysian capital as about 55,000.
Rubbing salt to injury, Tun Mahathir, in an earlier pre-rally press conference, said: “We know that the gathering today was attended by one million people, and I thank them because they gathered for thanksgiving. One million people. Thank you.”
He also gave himself a pat on the back, over his recent decision to not ratify the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD), a United Nations (UN) treaty, and made it clear his government will not partake the gathering at Dataran Merdeka.
“No, I am very much thankful enough. I made a good decision, and I am thankful that I could make the best decision,” the Langkawi MP said when asked if he would be showing up at the rally.
The organisers were expecting a close to half-million supporters. From Masjid Negara, Umno president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi led the march towards Dataran Merdeka after performing his Zohor prayers. Zahid was accompanied by Umno’s Pasir Salak MP Datuk Seri Tajuddin Rahman and his daughter.
Altogether, Malaysia’s most historical square saw a tide of white flooding it and the surrounding areas as tens of thousands of Malay-Muslims got together in support of the government’s decision not to ratify the ICERD.
The organisers pointed out that by ratifying the International Convention Against Racial Discrimination (ICERD), Malaysia will be turning its back on Article 153 of the Federal Constitution. This will essentially strip Bumiputera and the Malays of their special rights and privileges.
But the dark clouds marred the Saturday rally towards the closing stages of the event and rains quickly dispersed the crowd who headed for the shelters, much to the annoyance of the organisers who wanted the crowd to stay for an “anti-ICERD declaration and ikrar (oath)”.
Journalist Stephen Rajah in Kuala Lumpur, who attended the rally, says Umno and its new partners were “desperately finding new ways to topple the new government”.
He added: “My advice to Umno is to accept the bitter reality that it has lost and work towards making itself a solid opposition. Just wait until the next election to regain power and stop dreaming of becoming the government through the back door as this would destroy Umno’s influence.”
Perhaps the dark clouds and late rains had the ironic final say at Saturday’s rally, with quicky crowd dispersals before the evening sun set in prior to the 6.00pm official police deadline.