KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian police are gearing up for a massive rally set to take place at Dataran Merdeka in the heart of Kuala Lumpur on Saturday (Dec 8).
The rally was planned to protest against Malaysia signing the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD), a United Nations Convention that condemns discrimination and calls upon states to pursue a policy of eliminating racial discrimination in all its forms.
But the assembly is expected to proceed despite the government's announcement that it was no longer going to ratify ICERD.
Opposition political parties United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) and Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS), along with Malay rights group Perkasa, have said they will participate in the rally.
Here are five key points about the demonstration:
1. ORGANISERS' TARGET: 500,000 PARTICIPANTS
Organisers have said they are targeting a gathering of 500,000 people to express their thanks to the Pakatan Harapan government for not ratifying ICERD.
The Kelantan state government, which is ruled by PAS, has declared Sunday a public holiday in conjunction with the rally. Typically, Kelantan’s working days are from Sunday to Thursday.
Parti Keadilan Rakyat president Anwar Ibrahim said the move by the Kelantan government was not rational.
"That's my opinion, I think it's unreasonable to give a public holiday for a demonstration," he told Malaysian media.
2. SIX ROADS CLOSED
The rally is scheduled to take place along Jalan Raja from 2pm to 6pm on Saturday.
To facilitate this, police said six roads in the heart of Kuala Lumpur will be closed.
The roads affected are Jalan Sultan Hishamuddin, Leboh Pasar, Jalan Tun Perak, Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman, Jalan Raja Laut and Bulatan Dato' Onn.
Police said the rally participants are expected to disperse by 6pm, and have advised them to use public transportation to get to the rally site.
Police have also warned that cars parked along the roads will be issued summons and may even be towed away.
3. RIOT POLICE ON STANDBY
Malaysian police have declined to disclose the number of police personnel that will be deployed for the rally on Saturday, but assured the public that there will be enough officers to ensure that proceedings carry on smoothly.
Police also confirmed that the anti-riot Federal Reserve Unit is on standby and may be deployed if needed.
Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) on Friday issued a travel advisory urging Singaporeans to defer all non-essential travel to Malaysia's capital city this weekend.
"As with large congregations or demonstrations, there is a possibility that limited and isolated skirmishes might take place," MFA said.
Malaysian police have warned protestors not to bring any weapons, avoid any provocations and heed the instructions of police officers at the rally site.
4. ENSURE NO DISTURBANCES OR DAMAGE, PM MAHATHIR TELLS ORGANISERS
In a statement on Friday, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said he did not see the need for the rally to continue, but noted that organisers were continuing "as a sign of appreciation" for the government's decision not to ratify ICERD.
He also urged the rally organisers to ensure that there were no disturbances or damage to public property.
“If possible, don't throw rubbish carelessly and take care of the cleanliness of the surroundings," he said.
His son Mukhriz Mahathir, who is chief minister of Kedah, was quoted by the New Straits Times as saying that the gathering was "nothing more than a political gathering".
"What is worse is the racial and religious issues they are raising," Mukhriz reportedly said. "This matter, if unmonitored, can create anxiety and cause tension among the people. We should be focusing on unity at this point in time."
5. HUMAN RIGHTS RALLY SCHEDULED IN PETALING JAYA POSTPONED
A rally in Petaling Jaya to mark International Human Rights Day, initially scheduled to happen on Saturday, will take place a day later on Sunday due to "serious security risks", rally organiser Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) announced on Friday.
"The Royal Malaysia Police (PDRM) has informed Suhakam and the Prime Minister’s Office without divulging details that there will be serious security risks arising out of tomorrow's events that borders on national security," said Suhakam chairman Razali Ismail in a media statement.
Mahathir had been due to attend the event which was to take place at Padang Timur in Petaling Jaya.
While the two rallies had been scheduled for the same day, Suhakam commissioner and rally organiser Jerald Joseph told Malaysian media that the human rights rally was "not a pro-ICERD rally".