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Malaysia pro-government demonstrators promise peaceful rally
[KUALA LUMPUR] A planned demonstration by ethnic Malay hardliners in support of Malaysia's government will be peaceful, organisers vowed on Tuesday, despite fears it could incite racial tension in the multi-ethnic country.
The "Malay Dignity Uprising" in the capital Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday will bring out tens of thousands, said Jamal Yunos, a key organiser and a senior official in Malaysia's long-time ruling party.
"We will not provoke anyone or spark a racial clash. We will not riot," Mr Jamal told reporters.
However, he said the rally would be a platform for participants to demand respect for the Muslim ethnic Malay majority and rail against a Chinese-based party in the opposition.
Comments by supporters of Wednesday's event - which authorities have green-lighted - have been widely criticised as dangerous race-baiting.
The demonstration has been billed as a response to a massive two-day rally in Kuala Lumpur in late August by protesters demanding Prime Minister Najib Razak's resignation over a financial scandal.
They also called for deep reform by the government, whose critics accuse it of using repression, corruption and electoral chicanery to stay in power.
Mr Jamal said Wednesday's event rally was backed by 250 Malay NGOs and would underline Malay support for Najib.
"We hope to see a sea of red in the capital. We encourage everyone to wear red," Mr Jamal said.
Red is the colour of the ruling United Malays National Organisation (UMNO).
UMNO has dominated government for decades, reserving economic and other advantages for Malays over the sizable ethnic Chinese and Indian minorities.
But the UMNO-controlled coalition has suffered in recent elections as disaffected Chinese voters flock to the multi-racial opposition, sparking rising anti-Chinese rhetoric by Malay hardliners.
Deadly sectarian riots in 1969 left a deep scar on the national psyche, and the government usually moves swiftly to curb racially provocative actions.
The pro-Malay demonstrators are expected to march through an area dominated by Chinese-owned businesses.
Police have vowed tight security to prevent any disturbances.