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A rally in support of the deportation of controversial Indian preacher Dr Zakir Naik, scheduled to take place at Brickfields this afternoon, has been called off. (NSTP/ HAFIZ SOHAIMI)
A rally in support of the deportation of controversial Indian preacher Dr Zakir Naik, scheduled to take place at Brickfields this afternoon, has been called off. (NSTP/ HAFIZ SOHAIMI)

KUALA LUMPUR: A rally in support of the deportation of controversial Indian preacher Dr Zakir Naik, scheduled to take place at Brickfields this afternoon, has been called off.

The eleventh-hour announcement was made by the rally organiser, Shankar Ganesh Siridharan, after he allegedly spoke with PKR president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim last night.

Shanker, who is a radio DJ better known as Funky Shanker, claimed to have received a telephone call from Anwar asking him not to go ahead with the protest planned for 2pm today at the Water Foundation in Brickfields.

"I have decided not to go ahead with the gathering today because of two main reasons which are: One, the rally would be deemed as illegal if we were to go ahead without a police permit; and two, because of the promise made by Datuk Seri Anwar, to help the community.

"Datuk Seri has assured to help the Indians and I would be meeting with him to discuss the details, most likely within a weeks’ time," he said, calling supporters not to gather today.

The organiser had initially called for all Malaysians of Indian descent to join the gathering to express their opposition to Dr Zakir's stay in the country.

Shanker had planned to present an eight-point reform plan for the Indian community and to call for the deportation of Dr Zakir, citing possible racial disharmony, during the rally.

Meanwhile, a separate rally dubbed 'Puratchi', which was held to show dissatisfaction over the implementation of Khat writing as a compulsory subject at schools, attracted at least 500 protesters at the same spot, on Friday night.

Two of the Khat rally's main organisers, Naan Oru Tamilan education group head K. Umagandhan, 34, and Chinese educationist Tan Boon Tak, 67, were detained after the gathering.

The group's legal advisor, Dinesh Muthal, said the two were taken to the Brickfields district police headquarters to have their statements recorded.

"Although the rally did not get police approval at the last minute, it still went smoothly.

“There was heavy police presence, but nothing untoward happened, as protesters towed the line and cooperated with authorities," he said.

Dinesh said prior to the arrests, police also allowed the two organisers to address the crowd for 10 minutes before they politely asked the crowd to disperse.

Puratchi, which means ‘Revolution’, is a movement consisting of multiple NGOs from the Indian and Chinese communities.

Dinesh said that the group had a few resolutions to share with Malaysians, among which, is a proposal for Khat to be introduced as an optional co-curricular language or writing skills class at all vernacular schools.

"The communities understand that jawi is a form of writing which has its beautiful characteristics, but they believe that the identity of each vernacular school should be upheld and maintained as it always have been.

"Besides, the Bahasa Malaysia rumi has always been accepted as part of the beloved national language, which is second to none. We have always been in support of learning and maintaining the supremacy of the language.

“Being Malaysian-born Indians and Chinese, we want the language to be preserved the way it is and it was, taught to us in vernacular schools," he said speaking on behalf of the organisers.

He added that it is not a racial or religious issue, as all of us are bonded by one flag.

"It is an identity issue. Merely reinstating the given rights as per our beloved constitution," Dinesh said.

City Police chief Datuk Seri Mazlan Lazim today confirmed the arrests of Umagandhan and Tan, adding that they were held for investigations under Section 9(5) of the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012.

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