Despite ban, yellow shirts swamp Dataran
The Merdeka Day eve countdown this year at Dataran Merdeka will see two activist groups join revellers, but the police are adamant they be kept at bay.
Gabungan Janji, a coalition of 47 NGOs, wants to converge at the northern-most point of Dataran Merdeka in yellow to pressure the government to fulfil its promises of electoral reform.
The police have declared Gabungan Janji's planned gathering illegal.
Another group aims to hold a brief demonstration along Jalan Sultan to pressure the government to preserve heritage buildings earmarked to make way for the MRT (Mass Rail Transit) project.
The crowd at Jalan Sultan are expected to join Gabungan Janji at about 10pm.
Meanwhile, about 25km away in Shah Alam, the Selangor government is hosting its own countdown event at Dataran Kemerdekaan.
9pm: Dataran Merdeka - People are begin to trickle in, gathering in front of the iconic Sultan Abdul Samad building. There is a slight drizzle, possibly keeping others at bay.
Ironically, a Kuala Lumpur City Hall sign at both ends ofthe Sultan Abdul Samad building reads: "This area is closed to all activity".
9.05pm: Jalan Sultan - A crowd is building up near the Gospel Hall Church. Speakers advocating for the preservation of buildings along Jalan Sultan are addressing supporters.
9.15pm: Jalan Sultan - Led by a lion dance troupe including two ‘lions’ and drums, the procession along Jalan Sultan has kicked off and there appears to be no attempts by the police to stop them.
Instead, a few dozen police and People’s Volunteer Corps (Rela) personnel helped to direct traffic.
9.30pm: Shah Alam - Some 500 people are trickling into Dataran Kemerdekaan for the Selangor state government Merdeka Day eve event.
9.40pm: Dataran Merdeka - The number of revellers are swelling at Dataran Merdeka. Another group is seen near the Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman-Jalan Tun Perak junction trumpeting away on their vuvuzelas.
9.45pm: Jalan Sultan - The crowd near Chinatown has now swelled to about 1,000 people. They chanted “Save Jalan Sultan” along the procession and formed a 500m human chain in single file from Lok Ann Hotel to the site of the former Klang Bus station which was recently demolished.
After reading their declaration again and singing Negaraku, organisers announced the end of the event and asked everyone to disperse.
However, many lingered on.
Even as of 10pm, many are still on the streets with crowds spontaneously breaking into songs such as ‘Rasa Sayang’, or shouting for others to go to Dataran Merdeka.
10.30pm: Dataran Merdeka - There are easily a few thousand people on or near the field now.
More vuvuzelas are seen among the pro-Bersih crowd.
10.45pm: Dataran Merdeka - An estimated 5,000 people are in Dataran Merdeka for the federal government organised countdown.
A stone's throw away, a multi-ethnic crowd of thousands more in yellow shirts are gathered near the northern-most police cordon and are trumpeting away on their vuvuzelas.
11.05pm: Shah Alam - At the Selangor Pakatan rally, Menteri Besar Khalid Ibrahim recites Osman Awang’s poetry titled Merdeka to a crowd of 2,000 at Dataran Kemerdekaan.
He then shouts “Merdeka” three times and the crowd reciprocates.
11.30pm: Dataran Merdeka - The yellow shirt, led by Bersih 2.0 co-chairperson A Samad Said and Bersih secretariat member Maria Chin Abdullah, move away from Dataran Merdeka.
They regroup at an open area south adjacent to Kuala Lumpur City Hall headquarters to hear the national laureate recite a poem.
11.45pm: Dataran Merdeka - It is now a 15-minute wait before the clock strikes midnight and the countdown will begin.
The federal government's theme song Janji Ditepati is heard from Dataran Merdeka.
Some yellow shirts belt out the same as well, changing the lyrics to Janji Dicapati.
12am:- Dataran Merdeka - The yellow shirts sing 'Negaraku' at the stroke of midnight. Some left to enjoy the fireworks while others are dispersing in a cheerful mood.
12.20am - Dataran Merdeka - A Samad Said declares the Janji Demokrasi gathering a success but is unable to estimate a crowd figure.
Malaysiakini journalists estimates that the yellow shirts number at 10,000.
“When I reached Dataran Merdeka, I found that the number (of yellow shirts) were beyond expectations. I was pleased to notice that they were mostly youths. This is important.
“This reflects the fact that they are aware that this is their era and their hands cause a regime change. I hope this happens,” he said.
After the countdown, A Samad and several Pakatan Rakyat leaders led a portion of the crowd on a short march towards Bandaraya LRT station before dispersing.
12.30am: Dataran Merdeka - Dang Wangi district police chief Zainuddin Ahmad told reporters that no untoward incidents were reported.
“We’ll investigate later (for any violations),” he said when asked about the yellow shirts.
He confirmed that two youths were arrested for setting off fireworks. It is unsure if the youths were part of the yellow shirts.
He said a total of 205 police personnel were at Dataran Merdeka to monitor proceedings.
Reporting by Abdul Rahim Sabri, Kow Gah Chie, Lee Long Hui, Koh Jun Lin and Ahmad Fadli KC.