A video documenting the thousands of Malaysians who demonstrated near Merdeka Square on Saturday captured the frustration of citizens growing tired over the government’s poor handling of many things, including the COVID-19 crisis.
Produced by Ell Zulkarnain, the video showed crowds turning up in droves for the #Lawan protest near Kuala Lumpur’s iconic landmark over the weekend. The demonstration highlighted the rising number of deaths caused by the coronavirus, and other mental and physical tolls that the health crisis has brought on and made worse by Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s haphazard political leadership.
“As they march on towards heavily guarded Dataran Merdeka, protesters chanted #kitalawan and demands from the government,” the video, which has been viewed 20,000 times in less than a day, said. “A peaceful protest that sparked a debate of rationale fighting for your rights in this pandemic crisis and trying times. But one thing for sure, the fight will continue every single day the government chooses to let Rakyat suffer and die.”
Lawan means to fight.
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The rally highlighted the plight of Malaysians of every age and color ever since COVID-19 landed in Malaysia. It was organized by Sekretariat Solidariti Rakyat, which loosely translates to the People’s Solidarity Secretariat. The coalition is made up of political parties including MUDA, Pejuang, Amanah, and the People’s Justice Party. Lawan was the second event organized by them after the Black Flag movement.
Masked demonstrators gathered at the Masjid Jamek light rail transit station, the video showed, with some seated by the road, chanting slogans against the Perikatan Nasional government and demanding that Muhyiddin step down as prime minister.
“Lawan, lawan, kita lawan!,” they were heard saying. Some also carried props like fake corpses, symbolizing the high COVID-19 death toll. Nearly 10,000 Malaysians have died due to coronavirus.
The crowds dispersed by 1pm. Several people including organizers have been arrested for violating COVID-19 protocols, which prohibit large gatherings. Eight of them were questioned by police at the Dang Wangi headquarters today.
The eight include activists Muhammad Alshatri, Tharma Pillai, Sevan Doraisamy, Qyira Yusri, Donny Chee, Mohammad Asraf Sharafi, and Edylyn Beverly Joeman. The eight individuals entered the police station at 10am and left at 12.30pm.
Three other individuals – Siti Nurizah, Syazwani Mahmud and lawyer Asheeq Ali – were also called in.
Authorities were at the rally monitoring the demonstration, using a drone, a helicopter, and cell phone jammers to block telco signals.
Over 50 lawyers were also at the scene, a Bar Council representative told reporters. Even PKR vice-president Tian Chua, MUDA co-founder Amir Abd Hadi, Malaysian Human Rights Commission, and Malaysian Bar were reportedly there.
“During this pandemic period, no one is allowed to gather at all, whether for social, sports or even religious purposes, even if today’s [Saturday] gathering was peaceful,” Dang Wangi police chief Mohamad Zainal Abdullah said.
This article, #Lawan video captures Malaysians’ frustration over Muhyiddin, COVID-19, originally appeared on Coconuts, Asia’s leading alternative media company.