Never mind the provocative ‘Allah’ banners in several churches in Penang put up overnight by a ‘dirty tricks’ person/group (to divert attention away from the anti-price hikes rally today?), the real issue in the minds of many Malaysians is the slew of price hikes. Some 1500 people marched in a procession around Seberang Jaya on mainland Penang to express their unhappiness after listening to speeches at the back entrance of Sunway Carnival mall this afternoon.
The turnout easily surpassed that of the 18 January rally to support the PM organised by pro-Umno groups at the same venue.
Though initially only a few hundred people gathered today to listen to the speakers, mainly from PKR elected reps and Pas and NGO representatives, the crowd swelled as the afternoon wore on.
A few DAP members were seen in the area, but their elected reps were largely absent, perhaps as a result of Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng’s advice that such a rally could play into the hands of groups out to destabilise the situation.
Kangkung was the theme of the gathering, as you can see from the photos above.
Speakers led the multi-racial crowd in chanting “Hidup Rakyat!”, “Turun harga barang!” and “Turun Najib!” with lots of references to kangkung. Two speakers that stood out were Rafizi Ramli and Cikgu Bard. Deputy Chief Minister Rashid Hasnon and Toh Kin Woon also turned up.
Rafizi criticised the cronies of all ethnic groups who had become rich at the people’s expense. He also compared Rosmah’s lifestyle with the lifestyle of the ordinary people and asked how her son could afford such expensive housing.
The youthful looking Cikgu Bard, for his part, said the unease over price hikes had nothing to do with ethnicity or religion. He assured minority groups they had nothing to fear and there would be no repeat of May 13. The powerful orator said he was sure the Malays at the rally would defend minority ethnic groups if at all they were targeted. When he asked if the crowd agreed, they roared back their approval.
Monthly rallies against price hikes and GST would be held with a large one on 1 May, he added.
Uniformed police, though out in numbers, kept in the background with a mobile police station parked not far away, though lots of plainclothes police must have been swarming around the place. No riot police trucks or personnel were spotted.
When the speakers had concluded their speeches, the crowd marched around the two main streets of the Seberang Jaya commercial centre as traffic police facilitated their procession by halting traffic. The marchers took over the entire four-lane one-way streets. By then the crowd had swelled to over a thousand.
The protesters in high spirits were accompanied by honking motorbikes. Noticeable in the crowd largely attired in yellow or black was a contigent from Solidarity Anak Muda Malaysia (SAMM) carrying black flags bearing the group’s emblem and a group from the ‘Jingga 13’ NGO.