7:40PM Dec 31, 2013
In anticipation of a gloomy 2014, demonstrators took to the streets in Kuala Lumpur tonight to protest the rising cost of living as a result of the government’s austerity measures.
The New Year’s Eve protest, organised by a coalition of NGOs led by Gerakan Turun Kos Sara Hidup (Turun), saw participants gathering at three meeting points – Sogo Shopping Complex at Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman, Pasar Seni and Masjid Jamek
They then marched to Dataran DBKL before proceeding to the adjacent Dataran Merdeka where the Kuala Lumpur City Hall is organising a New Year’s concert.
The authorities have accused protest organisers of planning to overthrow the government and police have branded the rally “illegal”.
Police claim to have intelligence that dangerous weapons and bombs will be present at the demonstration but protest organisers have vehemently denied this.
Turun chief Mohd Azan Safar said the government was attempting to distract attention from the cost of living issues, which is the focus of the protest.
1.00am – This conclude our LIVE coverage of the rally. And no, the federal government has not been toppled. Happy New Year.
12.15am, Dataran Merdeka – Addressing the crowd, Turun chief Azan Safar leads the protesters to pledge for a corruption free 2014, while Solidarity Anak Muda Malaysia (SAMM) chief Badrul Hisham Shaharin later takes over the microphone and asked: “Was there any violence? Was there any bombings?”
He then leads the protesters in a comedic song which contains the lyrics “We love the police and the police loves us… We are only just upset that BN cheated us because they said toll will go down, but instead it went up”.
When it was Pandan MP Rafizi Ramli’s turn to speak, he notes that the clock at the Sultan Abdul Samad building was five minutes fast and it showed 12.05am when fireworks in neighbouring areas went off.
12.05am, Dataran Merdeka – Surprisingly, there are no fireworks display at Dataran Merdeka and the flood lights that illuminated the field had been switched off.
Undaunted, the protesters decided to light up the field with their mobile phones held high.
12.00am, Malaysiakini HQ – Happy new year from everyone in Malaysiakini!
11:55pm, Dataran Merdeka – Kuala Lumpur Ahmad Phesal Talib takes to the stage and greets everyone with BN’s slogan – 1Malaysia.
This triggers continous boos from the protesters.
“We will maintain peace. I hope there will be no problem about about public safety that can affect other visitors.
“Do not endanger the children and families here. I hope this event tonight will go on peacefully even though there are some of us here to express their feelings but we do not need to create animosity,” he said.
This triggers a crescendo of vuvuzela horns from the protesters.
11.55pm, Dataran Merdeka – Political analyst Wan Saiful Wan Jan tweets: KL Mayor now on stage making remarks that are completely uncalled for. There can’t be a worse provocation than this.
11.50pm, Dataran Merdeka – The field is now silent as police and protesters quietly watch each other as the clock ticks to midnight.
Some revellers are upset that the concert has been cancelled and were heard yelling “Baliklah! (Go home!)” at the protesters while some were heard chanting “1Malaysia!”.
11.30pm, Dataran Merdeka – The concert at Dataran Merdeka has been halted in view of a surge of protesters with a large Malaysian flag on the concert side of the field.
DBKL personnel are seen forming a line in front of the stage, which now has its lights turned off. Journalists then occupy the stage to photograph and film the protesters.
11.15pm, Dataran Merdeka – PAS supporters are sitting in a circle at the Jalan Parlimen-Jalan Raja intersection and listening to speeches from several leaders instead of joining the crowd making a bee-line for Dataran Merdeka.
PAS central committee member Dzulkefly Ahmad explains how the public will be burdened by their recent policies while vice-president Salahudin Ayub says that the people have shown courage by attending the rally despite threats from the government.
“There is no way for the government to ignore voices from all walks of life,” he said.
11pm, Dataran Merdeka – After more than 15 minutes of stand-off with police and DBKL officers in front of the Tourism and Culture Ministry, protesters attempt to breach the barricade once again.
The crowd, led by two Malaysian flags, is seen pouring pass the police cordon into Dataran Merdeka. The authorities eventually relent and do nothing to stop the protesters.
10.45pm, Dataran Merdeka – Some protesters are trying to force their way past a second police barricade. It was breached, but just briefly. DBKL personnel came to aid the police to force the protesters back.
Dang Wangi district police chief Zainuddin Ahmad quickly intervenes.
“Relax, relax! Please be patient. The fireworks will be on your side, not the other side. Let’s just wait together,” he says.
“Don’t distrust the police. We are doing our job and taking care of both sides (of the barricade). I ask your cooperation.”
Zainulddin’s jovial tone managed to calm down the protesters, many of whom are youths, who stop the pushing.
10.30pm, Dataran Merdeka – There are about 7,000 people gathered near the police barricade near the Jalan Tun Perak-Jalan Raja intersection.
Protesters formed a line of their own to face the police line which is directly in front of the Tourism and Culture Ministry building on Jalan Raja.
The other protesters have filled up their entire width of the road until the intersection.
Protesters are also passing a number of Malaysian flags that has been sown together back and forth from above.
The bottleneck is causing a lot of squeezing and pushing. They are chanting “Masuk! Masuk! Masuk! (Enter)”.
10.12pm, Dataran Merdeka – A grandmother who wishes to be known only as Julie says she was compelled to join the protest to urge the government to respect the people’s wishes.
“The rakyat is suffering. The government cannot play deaf now,” she said, who was seen holding a sign stating “respect the voice of the people” in front of the police barricade (left).
10.10pm, Jalan Raja Laut – There is easily 3,000 people now on the march from Sogo to Dataran Merdeka, along Jalan Raja Laut.
The multi-racial crowd is chanting “Turun, turun” and “Hidup Rakyat”, interspersed with “Reformasi” and have filled up the entire width of the road.
10.00pm, Dataran Merdeka – Two hours to midnight – it appears the police are allowing the protesters to gather near Dataran Merdeka.
They are letting people into Dataran if they are there to watch the concert, while protesters can gather at the edge of the field.
“Inside is for those who want to celebrate New Year’s Eve. If you want to protest, you may do so on the other side,” said Dang Wangi OCPD Zainulddin Ahmad.
9.52pm, Sogo – Just as the Sogo shopping complex prepares to close for the day, about 1,000 protesters gathered in front of the building begin their march towards Dataran Merdeka.
The majority of the protesters are youths. The atmosphere is boisterous with the singing of the national anthem, speeches and slogan chanting throughout the entire procession.
Interestingly, the traffic police who were directing traffic at the nearby intersections have left their posts.
9.45pm, Pasar Seni – More than 300 protesters march to Dataran Merdeka while chanting slogans “Turun! Turun!”, “Tipu! Tipu!” and “Najib Penipu!” (Najib is a liar). The group plans join the massive crowd already gathered at Dataran Merdeka.
Earlier, the Solidariti Anak Muda Malaysia (SAMM) spokesperson urged the protesters to remain peaceful.
9.40pm, Dataran Merdeka: Protesters mock the government’s claim that they want to “guling” (overthrow) the government.
Two protesters lie down on the floor while other protesters shouted, “Give way! We want to ‘guling’ into Dataran Merdeka!” in front of the police line.
‘Guling’ in the Malay language can mean either ‘overthrow’ or ‘roll’.
9.30pm, Sogo – This area means the main congregation point for protesters and they are singing to drum up support before the march. While waiting for the go-ahead, many protesters are seen helping themselves to food stalls at Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman and Jalan Raja Laut.
9.30pm, Pasar Seni – Suaram coordinator Syukri Razab says 10 personnel are deployed at several spots near Dataran Merdeka to monitor the situation.
“We are here to check if there is any crackdown by the police and will provide legal assistance to those protesters who are arrested,” he says.
He adds that several lawyers are on stand-by. Syukri urges the public to call or send SMS to a list of numbers if they need help.
9.30pm, Dataran Merdeka – Even though protesters from Masjid Jamek march to Dataran DBKL as planned, some of the overflowing crowd proceed directly to Dataran Merdeka. Others follow suit.
They come face-to-face with a police line near the intersection of Jalan Tun Perak.
Some protesters enter Dataran Merdeka using the sidewalk, while others squeeze through the police line. Police are not stopping them.
9.25pm, Dataran Merdeka – Protesters from Masjid Jamek who made it Dataran DBKL are slowly weaving their way past the first barricade manned by DBKL personnel.
However, they were blocked from entering Dataran Merdeka at a second barricade manned by the police.
9.15pm, Sogo – There are currently about 1,000 protesters gathered near the shopping complex. DAP Youth chief Teo Kok Seong addresses the crowd, reminding them to cooperate and show discipline during the march.
9.15pm, Masjid Jamek – The protesters gathering near the Masjid Jamek LRT station begin moving toward Dataran Merdeka, shouting ‘Reformasi’, ‘Hidup Rakyat’ dan ‘Bangkit Rakyat’.
With the police forming a defensive line around Dataran Merdeka, confrontation appears imminent.
9pm, Sogo – A representative from Solidariti Mahasiswa Malaysia, Fazli Zainul, gets things under way by addressing some 400 protesters and urges them to be patient.
“Tonight, we will march in protest against the price hikes. We will be marching to Dataran Merdeka shortly,” said Fazli.
Following this, a student from Kelantan was given a chance to speak. No sign of the police thus far but there is a Kuala Lumpur City Hall truck parked nearby.
Over at Masjid Jamek, the number of people are swelling and spilling over to Jalan Tun Perak, causing traffic to slow down.
At Dataran Merdeka, Kuala Lumpur deputy police chief Amar Singh is spotted addressing his staff. About 50 police personnel are manning the Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman-Jalan Tun Perak intersection where protesters from Sogo must pass to enter Dataran Merdeka.
At Central Market, there are slightly over 100 protesters clad in black waiting for instructions. Among them is Petrus Keloni, 32, a factory worker who hails from Sarawak.
“I don’t want people to suffer from rising cost of living, that’s why I’m here today,” said Petrus, who considers himself a patriot and was seen clutching a Malaysian flag.
8.40pm, Dataran Merdeka – Hundreds of police personnel are streaming into the Dataran Merdeka area. Seven police trucks and four buses are spotted.
After disembarking, some police personnel are forming a line in front of the Sultan Abdul Samad building while the rest are headed for the Royal Selangor Club building.
Over at the concert stage, organisers announces a short break for Ishak prayers.
8.30pm, Sogo – An administrative clerk, Chang For Bun, 27, tells Malaysiakini that she is part of the rally because of the rising cost of basic necessities are a big burden for her.
“If cost of basic good goes up, vegetables and meat will go up as well. The government shouldn’t be making us eat into our savings,” she said.
Student Leong Yung Hong, 19, says rising cost of living is making life difficult for him as a student.
“I want to tell the government that we are in a difficult situation. Don’t make it worse,” he said.
Meanwhile, hawkers are doing brisk business around the area due to the influx of protesters.
8.20pm, Pasar Seni – An undergraduate from Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) Shah Alam slams BN for failing to stick to its election promise of not increasing the road tolls.
The 19-year-old who wants to be known as Yoi, says he decides to join the Turun rally to express his unhappiness over BN’s policies.
“Why the price of toll and petrol increase soon after the election? Is this the way you (government) serve the people? BN should know that we’re very angry,” says the mechanical engineering student.
Yoi, who is with five other friends, says they are heading to Sogo before marching to Dataran Merdeka.
Meanwhile, only a few protesters are seen in the vicinity of Central Market but there are a lot of people clad in black seen walking towards Dataran Merdeka.
8:20pm, Dataran Merdeka – The concert for the New Year 2014 countdown has started to the tune of Europe’s The Final Countdown.
The crowd, mostly youths and families numbering at around 500 and are scattered across the field opposite the Sultan Abu Samad building.
8:15pm, Dataran Merdeka – There is a sudden increase in number of police personnel who were seen disembarking from at least two police trucks and nine police busses. There looks to be at least 400 police personnel present.
They are moving towards the Royal Selangor Club, away from public view. At least five ambulances can be seen within the vicinity.
Over at Masjid Jamek, hawkers selling protest paraphernalia such as t-shirts, headbands and masks and doing brisk business.
8.05pm, Sogo – A group of students had made their way from Kelantan to be part of the rally because they believe that the recent rise in cost for essential goods to be an injustice.
“We came here because we want to uphold justice. We are here to defend the rights of the people,” says student Aziz Afiq Abdul.
There is minimal police presence within the vicinity of the mall while the protesters are slowly trickling in.
7.50pm, Dataran DBKL – The weather is cloudy and breezy. Low rumblings from the sky could be heard and rain appear likely later tonight.
The site here, where protesters from the three meeting points will march to before proceeding to Dataran Merdeka, remains open to the public.
Only a few of DBKL (City Hall) officers are spotted along the edges of the square. A handful of protesters, clad in black, have also gathered here instead of the designated meeting points.
7.40pm, Sogo – More than 200 people have gathered in front of the shopping complex. Most of them appear to be PAS members and they perform their maghrib prayers in front of the mall.
7.45pm, Central Market – No obvious signs of protesters within the vicinity yet but there are several traffic police personnel spotted, along with one patrol car. The place is still teeming with tourists.
7.35pm, Dataran Merdeka – The crowd for the New Year 2014 countdown has begun to gather on the field opposite the Sultan Abdul Samad building where a stage has been set up. The event organisers are preparing for a concert, which is expected to kick off at 8pm.
Police personnel are few and far in between and the entrance into Dataran Merdeka from the direction of Sogo, one of the gathering points for protesters, remains open to access.
However, some 50 DBKL (City Hall) officers are camped near the intersection of Dataran Merdeka and Jalan Tun Perak.