Malaysian police have beefed up their presence and increased patrols in Petaling Street and its key vicinities amid reports that opposition leaders and Chinese businessmen were preparing for a possible confrontation with ethnic Malay groups Saturday, dpa reports.

Malaysian police arrested Red Shirt rally spokesman Jamal Md Yunos (C) on possible sedition charges

They are not taking any chance despite the announcement last night by Red Shirts rally organiser Mohd Ali Baharom that the gathering will not take place.

As early as 8am, roads connected to the tourist bargain shopping hotspot have seen additional police presence, although business seemed to be going on as usual.

Red shirts rally co-organiser and Sungai Besar UMNO division head Datuk Jamal Md Yunos was detained for questioning in Ampang Friday night, shortly after Mohd Ali had made his announcement which came with a warning of future protests.

The red shirts are demanding Petaling Street, also known throughout the world as Kuala Lumpur’s Chinatown, be opened to Malay traders to do business.

The area surrounding Low Yat Plaza in Bukit Bintang is under strong security, with increased police presence.

Nurul Izzah Anwar, daughter of jailed opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, urged Muslims to unite against efforts of some political sectors to disrupt social harmony.

“The racism we have been seeing belongs to the Stone Age,” she said.

Tens of thousands of pro-government ethnic Malays wearing red shirts had gathered in central Kuala Lumpur two weeks ago to show their support for embattled Prime Minister Najib Razak, who is under pressure to resign over corruption allegations.

One group of protesters attempted to barge into predominantly Chinese business districts, but were stopped by police.

The demonstrators accused the ethnic Chinese of disrespecting Malay leaders, including Najib.

The Economist’s view

Escalating racial rhetoric and rallies are distracting Malaysia from sorely needed social and economic reforms, The Economist said Friday.

The report also said that Malaysia’s Asean neighbours were worried over the risks of serious altercations as more “red shirt” rallies are planned.

“The spats are distracting the government from tricky and badly needed social and economic reforms. They are also worrying ethnically pluralist neighbours, such as Singapore, which frets about infection,” the news magazine said.

Malaysia’s population of 30 million consists of 67.4 per cent Malays and indigenous communities, 24.6 per cent Chinese, 7.3 per cent Indians and 0.7 per cent others, according to the Department of Statistics.

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