Malaysia's red shirt rally comes to a quiet end

KUALA LUMPUR - The Himpunan Rakyat Bersatu rally at Padang Merbok, which saw people crowding the field, ended peacefully.

The crowd started to build up at around 3pm, with people streaming in from Masjid Negara and Putra World Trade Centre.

Protesters soon turned the field into a sea of red, brandishing placards and banners calling for Malay unity and for Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad not to divide the community.

Besides speeches, there were silat performances and poetry recitals by various groups.

Those who spoke included National Silat Federation (Pesaka) president Tan Sri Mohd Ali Rustam, Mara chairman Tan Sri Annuar Musa and Perkasa president Datuk Ibrahim Ali.

Mohd Ali hit out at DAP for its chauvinistic politics and also condemned those who stepped on photos of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and PAS president Datuk Seri Hadi Awang during the recent Bersih rally.

Annuar criticised those who had labelled yesterday's rally as racist, saying that defending one's ethnic group was allowed in Islam.

"We are tolerant towards other races. We allow them to get an education and earn a li­­ving here," he said, admitting that he had paid people in his division to attend the rally.

"People in my division were paid. I even paid for some of them. What's wrong with that?"

He said no public funds were used and that even Bersih had paid people to attend its rally.

Organisers distanced themselves from the group which caused trouble at Petaling Street.

"They are definitely not our people. We spoke to the police and agreed not to go to Petaling Street," said Annuar, blaming "outsi­ders" for taking advantage of the situation.

Sungai Besar Umno chief Datuk Jamal Yunos, who was in Petaling Street to talk to those trying to breach the barricade after water cannons were trained on them, also claimed they were incited by outsiders.