Reporting by Sean Augustin, Hamzah Nazari, SM Amin, Ahmad Fazlan, Michael Murty, Izlin Hanim, Zalikha Ameera, Hanis Zainal, Daniel Chan, Mokhsin Zamani, Wan Kah Hoong
KUALA LUMPUR, May 1 —
The anti-GST rally set to take place today in the city will see participants converging in several checkpoints around Kuala Lumpur.
The checkpoints are the Kuala Lumpur City Centre (KLCC), Sogo shopping mall, Masjid Negara, Dataran Maybank and Brickfields.
Participants will then move towards Dataran Merdeka where the rally is said to take place, however yesterday, PAS clarified they will not be utilizing the square on police orders.
Meanwhile, Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) President Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, in a statement yesterday morning, called upon the public to gather at Dataran Merdeka to show solidarity against the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) amongst others.
Roads around Dataran Merdeka have been reopened to traffic.
Vandals took to tarnishing Dataran Merdeka with spray paints.
SAMM chairman Badrul Hisham Shaharin (Chegubard) said that he regretted there was a fight, adding that some of those were involved were probably SAMM members, although he was not certain just yet.
He said it is difficult to control some youths and he regretted that the fight took place.
Chegubard also offered his apology on the incident.
A group of youths clad in black are pushing through the crowd from Jalan Raja heading towards the art gallery, shouting and creating ruckus.
A fight has broken out between them and members of the media.
PAS’ Charity Wing members are staying out of it, the Police have yet to intervene.
Muslim participants are reciting a do’a, while others are slowly beginning to disperse.
Opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim just finished his speech in which he said rallies will continue to be held until UMNO gives in to the demands of the rakyat.
“GST is one way how our money is used to make cronies rich. We feel the pain of people, prices are going up but do these ministers understand, this is why we have gathered, to tell them,” he said.
“TV3 and Utusan have claimed less than 1,000 people are here. Stupid.”
On his looming jail sentence, Anwar said he is not afraid because the people will rise up.
“They had also persecuted the late Karpal Singh, Anthony Loke, Tian Chua and many more I’m sure. They have made a mockery of our judiciary. We are not waiting for the next GE we want the changes now. The people can’t wait another four years. We have to rise to fight the people’s agenda, fight racism and dirty politics.
“I would like to say congratulations for the extraordinary turnout. We salute Mat Sabu for organising this,” he said, referring to PAS’ Deputy President Mohammad Sabu.
“These peaceful assemblies will continue until the people get what they want.”
Earlier there was a brief tussle between those from Solidarity Anak Muda Malaysia (SAMM), Geng Anarki and PAS’ Charity wing when the latter refused to allow the former to go near the stage where the leaders were speaking at Dataran Merdeka.
Some shoving and pushing happened however more of PAS’ members stepped in to break up the altercation.
Maria Chin Abdullah from Bersih also stepped in to calm them down, but not before an Anarki member was punched by a PAS member.
Folks selling rally merchandise and other items in the area have begun packing up as rain is expected soon.
Some youngsters also popped flares and smoke bombs.
Meanwhile, PKR’s Tian Chua in his speech said that they did not just oppose GST but all unfair policies.
“We ask all Malaysians to rise and fight,” Tian Chua said.
PSM has occupied one corner of Jalan Raja Laut, where they are holding poetry recitals and some are singing. Its secretary-general S. Arutchelvan is leading, encouraging people to participate.
Thunder is booming up ahead, with rain expected soon, some small groups of protestors slowly begin to disperse.
PKR’s Datuk Saifuddin Nasution took the mic and said the rally does not break any existing law in the country as recently displayed by the court with their ruling.
“We are free to gather on whatever reason. GST exists because our nation’s dependency on gas reserves and the nation’s debt is growing and can’t be sustained anymore. PM Najib is the PM that had spent the most and had wasted the most money. I salute all that are here today, some from the furthest places in Malaysia. Those here from Perlis to Sabah, shows the country’s disapproval of GST,” he said.
“Today also shows that police follows the rule of law and don’t resort to tear gas and chemically laced water, our gatherings are peaceful and not chaotic. We urge the police to respect the rule of law.”
The group from KLCC is now at Dataran Merdeka. The crowd estimate is between fifteen to twenty thousand.
Student activist Adam Adli in addressing the crowd at the rally congratulated the people of Malaysia for what he calls as making history again.
“Today Malaysian are successfully allowed into Dataran Merdeka despite failed attemps before. We have made a change. This date will live in infamy as the day people have stood up to the government. Remember this day belongs to us,” he said.
PKR’s Nurul Izzah Anwar then took the mic and said they were glad that after many demonstrations, they finally receive co-operation from the authorities and today, they are able to gather peacefully to oppose GST.
“Our future is in doubt because of the BN policies that include GST. Our debt will increase. Is this fair to us? We can buy submarines but can’t do search and rescue that we have to borrow Singapore’s. All our money wasted. Najib you are a minority Prime Minister, you better start listening to the rakyat,” Nurul Izzah said.
The sky is turning dark, it would appear that the protestors may be soaked in heavy rain soon.
Folks from KLCC are still on the way to Dataran Merdeka.
Leaders are beginning to take the stage to address the crowd. PKR’s Azmin Ali said the extraordinary turnout will “surely give sleepless nights to some tonight.”
“If this is the support we get during the next GE we will surely take over Putrajaya. I want to ask the PM why huge corporations are exempted from this tax but the common men isn’t.
“We are sitting down next to the courts here that had illegally found Anwar guilty,” Azmin said referring to Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.
“They want to jail the Opposition leader because they are afraid of the Opposition and the lead it is making with the people. We want the people to rally again if they intend to send Anwar to jail. We must remind the courts and judiciary that we will stand against injustice. Don’t burden the common man with this tax,” he told the crowd.
Scene at the Dataran Merdeka is beginning to resemble that of the previous Bersih rally. A sea of red is filling up Jalan Raja as those walking from the various checkpoints arrive in the main area of the planned May 1 rally.
A group of youngsters are hoping the Man Of Steel will help them crush the GST faster than a speeding bullet.
Clad in t-shirts bearing the iconic logo, the six friends are taking part in the rally because they feel the government has not been forthcoming with the details.
In declaring they were middle class citizens, the group said they were still in the dark over how the calculations worked.
A 21-year old who only wanted to be known as Joe said that the people would stand to lose in the end.
“What is in it for us? We need Superman to help us,” he said, breaking out in laughter.
Opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and his wife Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail were seen arriving at Dataran Merdeka.
They walked towards Masjid Jamek before making their way back to the square with the other protestors.
Several children were also spotted selling anti-GST merchandise.
Protestors of about 1,000 at the KLCC checkpoint are preparing to move towards Dataran Merdeka.
Meanwhile, those near Masjid Negara have also begun walking towards the square.
The area between Masjid Jamek and Dataran Merdeka is filling up with protestors and from observation, it is beginning to look much more like the previous Bersih rally as compared to earlier in the afternoon.
Several anti-GST banners were spotted near Pudu.
The protestors are allowed on to Jalan Raja, in front of the Sultan Abdul Samad building as long as they do not step on Dataran Merdeka which is closed for repair works.
Some of the protestors walking from the various checkpoints have arrived in the area surrounding Dataran Merdeka.
Protestors are spotted carrying various placards all the way from the checkpoints leading up to the historical square.
Activist Hishammuddin Rais is also joining the rally, he was spotted taking a rest at one of the coffee shops before proceeding to join the protestors in their march towards Dataran Merdeka.
Near KLCC, Maria Chin Abdullah addresses the crowd and tells them that GST will be a burden if it is implemented.
Wong Tack of Himpunan Hijau, in his speech said that when tens of thousands of people stand together, they can do extraordinary things.
Datuk Ambiga Sreenivasan also addressed the crowd calling for the abolishment of GST as well as clean elections.
Datuk Mahfuz Omar and Shah Alam MP Khalid Samad are near Masjid Negara. The leaders have also begun giving speeches, and they thanked the Police for giving co-operation for the rally. Chants are also heard from the crowd.
Meanwhile, Datuk Saifuddin Nasution of PKR tells the crowd that they are at the rally to protest the GST on behalf of the have-nots, such as rubber-tappers.
The protestors near KLCC are now sitting down and singing Suara Rakyat.
MP for Kuala Terengganu, Raja Datuk Kamarul Bahrin Shah, arrived at Masjid Negara earlier at 1pm.
“This is a people’s uprising. It has been an ongoing movement. The government cannot continue to take the people’s opinions for granted.
“Malaysians have changed. They are now aware of their rights and the power of their voices. They cannot be blinded by the propaganda of the mainstream media anymore as now there are other ways to get news such as the social media and blogs.
“They cannot afford to ignore the wishes and opinions of Malaysians anymore, nor can the government stop them from voicing it out and sharing their views in an open forum.
“The people cannot be opressed forever. The government needs to acknowledge the changing of times. The government needs to listen to the voice of the masses,” said Raja Bahrin.
He said that he will join the protesters in the walk towards Dataran Merdeka.
Dataran Merdeka is heavily guarded by Police officers, however tourists and visitors are able to walk around the area.
Himpunan Hijau protesters are also participating in the rally as they join anti-GST protestors in KLCC waiting to walk to Dataran Merdeka.
Those who walked from Sogo have arrived near Dataran Merdeka however PAS Charity Wing members told them not to enter as it is not 2pm yet.
Protesters near KLCC are gathering just above the LRT station entrance, chanting, singing and waving flags.
1.25pmPAS’ Charity Wing members are directing and controlling the crowd. Meanwhile, some of their members are seen praying on the sidewalk.
Meanwhile, in Masjid Negara, The Rakyat Post spoke to a couple, both oil and gas engineers, who were spotted with their two young daughters in the compound of the mosque waiting for the walk to Dataran Merdeka.
The father, Mohamad, 31, said that they drove all the way from Seremban to attend the rally.
“We came to show support to the party (PAS), to show solidarity with those who will be burdened by the GST implementation, and to make it clear that we do not want the GST to be implemented,” he saidm
“We are fully informed of what GST is. We are not against the principle of GST, but we feel that it should not be imposed to all Malaysian.
“Instead, we feel that it should only be imposed on those who are well off. GST should not be imposed on the lower income group as it will burden them.
“In Islam, only those who are well off need to pay zakat. The GST implementation should also follow this principle,” he explained.
The crowd at Sogo begins to move towards Dataran Merdeka.
People are scattered all over the Masjid Jamek area and observation notes that the scenery is much different as compared to the previous Bersih rally.
It appears to be more calm and festive than anything else.
People are also entering the mosque here for prayers.
Roads leading to Dataran Merdeka has been blocked with police barricade.
PSM president Dr Nasir Hashim is also in the area around KLCC waiting to march to Dataran Merdeka.
The crowd around Masjid Jamek is also building up with many taking the opportunity to sell anti-GST merchandise.
Some 200 PAS charity wing members who are gathering there are getting ready to move to Dataran Merdeka soon.
They have been given a briefing by their leaders to ensure that protestors do not behave in a rowdy manner and to be make sure that no one steps on the grass at Dataran Merdeka.
Solidariti Anak Muda Malaysia (SAMM) chairman Badrul Hisham Shaharin or better known as Chegubard is distributing flags near KLCC.
Traffic is beginning to build up in front of Sogo along Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman. Crowd has increased to almost 1,000.
A second larger group of about 300 begins to gather at the Burberry entrance of KLCC.
Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) leaders have arrived in front of KLCC, including its secretary-general S. Arutchelvan.
When met by The Rakyat Post, Arutchelvan said it is unprecedented that the Police have allowed protestors to use Jalan Raja for the rally.
Meanwhile, he said KLCC was picked as one of the checkpoints because it is “a symbol of capitalism.”
“No political people will speak here, only civil societies. The theme for this year’s Labour Day is GST,” he said.
“We hope that with this huge crowd, the government will abolish GST.”
Those gathering in front of Masjid Negara saw a bit of a provocation when a group of 20 to 30 red shirt wearers began to make noise when police officers and DBKL officers passed by the area through Jalan Sultan Hishammuddin heading towards Dataran Merdeka.
Meanwhile, the crowd in the area has grown to approximately 800.
Supporters around KLCC elicit honks from vehicles showing their support to the rally.
Crowd is building up in front of Sogo, police presence is also increasing.
Fatimah Azizah Abdullah, 52, told The Rakyat Post that she is participating in the rally for the future of the younger generation.
She is currently at the Sogo shopping mall waiting for the rally to begin.
“I don’t want them to lead a difficult life. This is because of the big wealth gap I see from the time when I was still young until today. Everytime there is a rally that champions the rakyat, I will join. The people are getting tired of keeping quiet. The government must realize that we no longer want to be victims of wastage in the administration. They want to implement GST to make up for the deteriorating economy,” Fatimah who hails from Penang said.
Some 50 protesters near KLCC are now gathering in front of the Bangunan Getah Asli because they have been told that KLCC is a tourist area and they should not disrupt the business there.
President of the Angkatan Belia Bersama Ulama Sulaiman Ibrahim, 33, told The Rakyat Post that the Police will interfere if they don’t move from the KLCC area.
“We are waiting for more NGOs to join us,” he said.
In Central Market, some 50 people were spotted wearing red t-shirts and bands around their heads. The situation appears to be under control.
In Masjid Jamek, some 200 PAS Charity wing members are spotted in the area.
Stalls selling anti-GST rally merchandise have popped up on the sidewalk outside the LRT station.
Police and KL City Hall (DBKL) enforcement officers are already patrolling the area.
More protesters – many wearing the signature red T-shirt of the rally – can be seen inside the compound of Masjid Negara.
The Rakyat Post approached a group of men in maroon, who turned out to be members of the Charity Wing of PAS (Jabatan Amal PAS).
“At present, there are already about 70 of us who have arrived. Most of us are from the Northern part of the country,” said Yahya Abdullah, 35, from Kedah.Yahya, a lorry driver, is the director of the Kedah chapter of the Jabatan Amal. “We are all volunteers.
“The party (PAS) leaders have instructed us to come here today to assist in the rally.
“We are sort-of the jack of all trades of the rally – we can help with traffic, give medical help, assist the organisers with crowd control,” explained Yahya.
He said that they will also assist the public in case they are accidentally trapped in the crowd of protesters.
“Our main priority is to ensure the safety of everyone – be it protesters or the members of the public,” he added.11.10am
There is massive Police presence at KLCC, with an additional of about 200 plainclothes officers. As for the protestors, some 200 have begun to gather.
Traffic along Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman is still flowing smoothly.
Number of rally participants have increased to 500.
DBKL enforcement officers are already patrolling the area surrounding Sogo shopping mall.
Mohd Nizam Ismail from Sungai Petani Kedah, when met by The Rakyat Post in front of Sogo, said he came for the rally voluntarily.
“We were not paid,” he said.
According to Mohd Nizam, a rubber tapper, “GST means all basic goods will be taxable.”
“I am here as a means to pressure the government that is oppressing the public. I do not want to embarrass Malaysia but I do not want Malaysians to be made into fools,” he said.
In Butterworth, Penang, several members of the Malaysian Trade Union Congress (MTUC), which includes the Metal Industry Employees’ Union are also gathering in protest of the GST. have also begun to gather in protest of the GST.
A PAS member, Nazrul, 34, from Penang, who is in charge of security told The Rakyat Post he is responsible for the welfare and behaviour of the protesters.
“My main task is to ensure that none of the protestors act aggresively or out of control. I also have look out for any signs of agent provocateurs, as these people tend to be the ones who turn peaceful rallies into chaotic ones.”
At Masjid Negara, 20 buses from Penang were spotted, believed to have ferried protestors to the location.
Most of them are hanging around in the mosque compound, clad in red t-shirts.
An estimated 200 people have begun to gather in front of Sogo shopping mall along Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman.
Rally t-shirts are also being sold at the location.
Traffic in the area is still smooth flowing and enforcement officers are not spotted as yet.