Thou­sands rally to up­hold Malay priv­i­leges

Khaleej Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

kuala lumpur — Tens of thou­sands of Malaysian Mus­lims ral­lied on Satur­day in Kuala Lumpur against any at­tempt to strip the eth­nic Malay ma­jor­ity of its priv­i­leges, in the first mas­sive street gath­er­ing since Prime Min­is­ter Ma­hathir Mo­hamad’s al­liance won a his­toric vote in May.

The rally, backed by the coun­try’s two largest op­po­si­tion Malay par­ties, was ini­tially aimed at protest­ing a gov­ern­ment plan to rat­ify a UN treaty against racial dis­crim­i­na­tion.

Crit­ics al­lege that rat­i­fy­ing the treaty would end Malay priv­i­leges un­der a decades-old af­fir­ma­tive ac­tion pol­icy. The plan to rat­ify was even­tu­ally aban­doned, but or­gan­is­ers de­cided to pro­ceed with what they called a “thanks­giv­ing” rally. Ma­hathir said the gov­ern­ment allowed the rally as part of democ­racy, but warned against any chaos. The rally was held un­der tight po­lice se­cu­rity, but ended peace­fully af­ter rain started to fall.

Former premier Na­jib Razak, who has been charged with mul­ti­ple counts of cor­rup­tion, was among op­po­si­tion law­mak­ers at the rally.

Po­lice said there were at least 55,000 peo­ple on the streets. Many wore white T-shirts and head­bands with the words “Re­ject ICERD,” re­fer­ring to the UN treaty — the In­ter­na­tional Con­ven­tion on the Elim­i­na­tion of All Forms of Racial Dis­crim­i­na­tion.

Rally-go­ers gath­ered at three lo­ca­tions be­fore march­ing to a nearby his­toric square, chant­ing “Long live the Malays” and “Crush ICERD.” “Yes, we did not rat­ify ICERD, but we are still here to say that we are still against it,” said shop­keeper Rosli Ikhsan. “Even if the gov­ern­ment has said they won’t en­dorse it, we are still protest­ing with all our might from all of Malaysia.” Ma­hathir’s new gov­ern­ment won a stun­ning vic­tory in a May 9 gen­eral elec­tion amid anger over a mas­sive cor­rup­tion scan­dal in­volv­ing Na­jib and his gov­ern­ment, but many Malays still support Na­jib’s party. —

AP

Pro­test­ers at the In­de­pen­dent Square in Kuala Lumpur. —

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