Red Shirt or Himpunan Merah rally rally chief spokesman Datuk Jamal Mohd Yunos wants to transform his bunch of rabble rousers into a multiracial group with a substantial number of representatives from the various ethnic groups of Malaysia.
He hopes to shed the group of its racist tag. The Red Shirts had a contemptible beginning and they do not belong in a multiracial and multireligious society. The group started off with a Ketuanan Melayu stance and were racially provocative.
The Red Shirts were formed to counter the Bersih 4 rally, which was conveniently interpreted as Chinese for political reasons. Detractors denounced the Bersih 4 rally as part of an attempt by the Chinese to usurp political power although it was a case of multiracial middle-class Malaysians taking to the streets to let their voice heard.
The Red Shirts were an immediate answer to Bersih 4, an unnecessarily political knee-jerk reply to a perceived threat. Even current and past Umno leaders then spoke against the single-race rally to counter Bersih 4, saying Malay pride or dignity is not under threat. Nonetheless, their calls for reason were just an exercise in futility.
That is all in the past and the Red Shirts poster boy, Jamal, wants to deracialise his protest group. The Umno Sungai Besar division leader blames the Opposition for painting a wrong picture of the group.
“We were wrongly portrayed by the Opposition. They were spreading misleading information about us on how we are a bunch of racists. I am confident that this year’s Red Shirt Rally will see the support of the non-Malay non-government organisation (NGO) to prove to the Opposition that we are not racist,” says Jamal.
“I have discussed this with the NGOs about their participation if Bersih 5 does take place, and they have stated their support.”
If Jamal is able to get 40 per cent of non-Malay participation in his next rally, that would change the face of the Red Shirts. He needs to have 120,000 of targeted 300,000 Red Shirt protesters to be non-Malay Malaysians.
“Today I have 58,000 people who have agreed,” a news portal quoted Jamal as saying. He says as long as Bersih 5.0 carried out its activities within the laws, Red Shirt rally-goers would follow suit.
“If they use the law of the jungle, we will also use the law of the jungle. If they follow the rules, we will follow the rules. If not, we will do the same,” he says.
Whether that is veiled threat to take the law into their hands or not, Jamal is combative as ever. The only saving grace here is that he recognises that a single-race rally is not reflective of the stand of a plural society.
If he is sincere in deracialsing the Red Shirts and is able to garner enough support from the other ethnic groups, then we will listen to them. Until then, they can shout themselves hoarse, but a multiracial Malaysia needn’t give two hoots to what they are saying.