KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 1 — Participants of an anti-price hike rally at Dataran Merdeka here last night will be investigated for possible violations of the Peaceful Assembly Act (PAA) 2012, police said today.
Dang Wangi police chief Asst Commissioner Zainuddin Ahmad also expressed his disappointment that the police force’s “patience” during the event was taken for granted by those attending the rally.
“We have tried to restrict them from disturbing Dataran Merdeka but they have rammed three barriers that we have erected,” Zainuddin told reporters late last night here.
“Police officers have worked with utmost patience from start until the end ... We were using PAA, we were leaning more towards regulating,” said Zainuddin, claiming that police officers did not wish to show aggression.
Police estimated 5,000 participants attended the rally, in addition to between 20,000 and 25,000 New Year’s Eve revellers last night.
At 11pm, the boisterous demonstrators made it past several lines of police and Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) barricades and streamed into the historic square to join the rest of the revellers at the ongoing national New Year’s Eve countdown celebration.
About 30 minutes later, the state-organised concert came to an abrupt end and those attending the celebration left the venue even as protesters continued to linger on, filling up nearly the entire stretch of the square.
Two policemen suffered minor injuries during the rush and received treatment at the Kuala Lumpur Hospital, police said.
Zainuddin also alleged that four machetes and three knives were found in the city last night, and the cases will be investigated under the Corrosive and Explosive Substances and Offensive Weapons Act 1958.He further claimed that the police have identified several politicians involved in the rally and who will be similarly investigated under the PAA.
Media reports showed that among politicians present during the rally were PKR’s Rafizi Ramli and Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad, DAP’s Kasthuri Patto and Steven Sim, while PAS’s Salahuddin Ayub and Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad were in a separate gathering nearby.
The mass protest was planned amid the various increases in the prices of goods and services, some of which have already taken place a few months ago, such as cuts to fuel subsidy and removal of price support for sugar, while other hikes are scheduled for next year, including electricity tariffs, assessment tax for KL properties, public transport charges and toll rates for major highways.
But over the past week, the police have been on high alert after claims circulated online of a demonstration to unseat the government, and also of an alleged plot to detonate bombs during the New Year’s Eve countdown at Dataran Merdeka. The authorities have since linked the claims to the planned protest.
On Saturday, police listed four non-governmental organisations (NGOs) as the key groups allegedly planning to “cause trouble” at the annual do.
They are Gerakan Turun Kos Sara Hidup (Turun), student movement Solidariti Mahasiswa Malaysia (SMM), PKR-backed group Jingga 13, and youth group Solidariti Anak Muda Malaysia (SAMM).
The groups had since refuted allegations that they were trying to topple the government with the rally, and had planned to sue Kuala Lumpur deputy police chief Datuk Amar Singh Ishar Singh for defamation.