HUNDREDS of Malaysians ushered in the New Year with a rally in central Kuala Lumpur against the Najib administration and demanded that petrol prices be brought down in 2018.
Protestors at the “Turun” rally flooded Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman in front of the Sogo shopping complex where they began to chant ‘Turun Minyak, Turun Najib’’ (bring down petrol prices, down with Najib).
The 500-strong crowd of mostly activists and politicians then started marching towards Dataran Merdeka at 11pm to the beat of drums.
The crowd marched peacefully and stopped about 30m in front of Dataran Merdeka where they were prevented from going any further by police.
After more singing and cheering, the group began to disperse at 11.45pm as part of the conditions set by police.
However, a small group of youths decided to stay and stage a sit down some five minutes before midnight despite being told by police to disperse as they have exceeded the rally’s time limit.
This prompted Dang Wangi police chief ACP Sharuddin Abdullah to warn them that he would call in the Federal Reserve Unit (FRU) to disperse them.
The group of about 10 people dispersed after the clock struck 12.
Shaharuddin told the reporters earlier that he had given few condition to the organiser to adhere to on the protest.
“I have told them to disperse by 11.45pm and they were not allowed to come near Dataran Merdeka. I also told them that there should not be drums and loudhailers. They have clearly violated the PAA (Peaceful Assembly Act 2012). We will open an investigation against them,” said Shaharuddin.
He said that police have compromised but that did not mean the rally was approved.
Rally organiser, Amanah youth chief Shazni Munir, said the protest had went on peacefully as promised.
He said more protests might be held if the government failed to bring down fuel prices.
Protester Julia Alias, 35, said she joined the protest as the was affected by high cost of living as well.
As a mother to two ongoing school children, the insurance agent said finance is getting tight due to the economy.
“It is tough now with the increased expenditure. We have to cut our spending on certain things to accommodate more pressing needs,” said Julia without explaining further.
Another protester, 42-year-old Nora Abdullah, said she learned of the protest from word of mouth.
The seasoned protester had been participating in protests and rallies since 1998 when she was only 23.
Nora had been arrested 13 times by the police for various protest-related offences but that did not deter her from participating in last night’s rally.
“I am a single mother of five. I don’t have school going children. My burden is probably lesser than others but that does not mean I should stay take things easy. I am here because I can feel the sufferings.
“I am all against price hikes, fuel hikes, anything that burdens the people at large. I am not here for myself but for my grandchildren and others,” she said.
In the latest update on fuel prices on December 28, petrol prices dropped by 1sen to RM2.26 per litre for RON95 (from RM2.27 per litre the week before). The same goes for RON97, which is now priced at RM2.53 per litre (down from RM2.54).
The price for diesel, meanwhile, went up by 3sen to RM2.26 per litre (from RM2.23 previously. These prices are effective until January 3, when the next set of prices for the following week will be announced.
This pricing marked the 40th weekly update of fuel prices since the system took effect at the end of March this year.