LIVE REPORT The first major rally of 2017 kicks off today, in support of amendments to the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act (Act 355) tabled by PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang.
It takes place at Padang Merbok, Kuala Lumpur from 2pm to 11pm and will be a marathon of speeches, capped with Abdul Hadi's address at 10.30pm.
Meanwhile, a group called Bebas is holding a counter-rally at 3pm at Tasik Taman Jaya, Petaling Jaya, to reject the bill.
Malaysiakini reports to you live from the ground
11.20pm: Padang Merbok - After PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang's finishes his speech, rally participants slowly disperses.
The emcee reminds participants to pick up rubbish along the way.
This concludes Malaysiakini's LIVE report of the two rallies. Dispatches and photographs were filed by Shakira Buang, Zulaikha Zulkifli, Zikri Kamarulzaman, Geraldine Tong, Syukri Ariffin and Nazir Sufari.
11.10pm: Dang Wangi - Police maintains an estimate of 20,000 participants, according to Dang Wangi district police chief Mohd Sukri Kaman.
He adds that 2,000 police personnel were part of security detail and that there were no arrests thus far.
11.00pm: Padang Merbok - PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang describes critics of the proposed amendments to the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 as "mosquitoes" and "fleas".
He says that since the 1970s, experts from the west have recognised the position of the Syariah.
"In the early 1970s, western intellects, along with the Vatican, and Muslims in Mecca held a meeting on jurisprudence.
"The western representatives had recognised the Syariah. Those who opposed (the law) are merely mosquitoes and fleas," he says.
He urges those who reject the amendments to study the archaic laws in this country.
"Instead of trying to prevent efforts from strenghtening the Syariah Court, it is better to discuss archaic laws that still uses the noose.
"This should be done instead of questioning Islamic laws with their kejahilan (ignorance) of knowledge," says the Marang MP.
10.30pm: Padang Merbok - PAS spiritual leader Hashim Jasin urges critics of attempts to amend the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 to give the new law a chance.
He says that man must be confident with what has been willed by God for the benefit for mankind.
The describes the proposed amendments as a "medicine" for mankind.
"God has instructed us: If this is wrong, do this (as a remedy). If that is wrong, do that.
"Give it a chance and look at the results. If it is positive, we'll let it continue. We are confident that what has been asked of us is for the good of mankind.
"We want those who are 'sick' to be given the proper medication," he says.
Crowd numbers holding
10.45pm: Padang Merbok - It's getting late but crowd numbers are still holding while they wait for PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang to take the stage. Malaysiakini estimates that about 55,000 people are within the vicinity.
Organisers believe that the number is closer to 300,000 while the police, as of 9pm, estimate a crowd size of 20,000.
Abdul Hadi arrives
10pm: Padang Merbok - PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang, the main speaker of the night, arrives on scene.
Clad in grey robes and a purple vest, he makes his way to the stage while waving at supporters.
The crowd shouts "takbir" to welcome him.
Also present is local actor Mustafa Kamal, whose real name is Mustapha Kamal Mohd Daud.
The Kota Baru-born actor had acted in films such as "Love Supermoon", "Girlfriend Kontrak" and "Dendam Orang Mati".
He greets PAS leaders on stage and sits beside them.
Message for Guan Eng at Act 355 rally
9.35pm: Padang Merbok - Pertubuhan-pertubuhan Pembela Islam (Pembela) chairperson Aminudin Yahaya takes the stage with a reminder for Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng.
"I want to remind the the Penang chief minister, don't obstruct (amendments to) this Act, it has nothing to do with you.
"Don't be arrogant. This Act is for Muslims. We have said repeatedly that this will not affect non-Muslims," he says.
Lim is also the DAP secretary-general.
Aminudin also warned that any MPs who do not support amendments to Act 355 when Parliament convenes in March will be punished in the general election.
"We want to send a message to MPs, be they Malays or non-Malays... Any MPs who reject this motion (to amend Act 355) will be defeated, agree?" he says as the crowd responded "Agree".
Emcee claims 300k turnout
9.15pm: Padang Merbok - The emcee, Akram Ikram, a participant of reality show Pencetus Ummah, claims the crowd numbers at 300,000 people.
Meanwhile, Dang Wangi district police chief Mohd Sukri Kaman estimated the crowd as of 9pm to still be at around 20,000 people.
Malaysiakini estimates a crowd of around 50,000 people.
The crowd is presently gathered on Padang Merbok and surrounding areas for a marathon ceramah that is expected to go on until 11pm.
'Previous amendments went without a hitch'
8.30pm: Padang Merbok - Jamil Khir Baharom addresses the crowd and explains that the last amendment of the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 was in 1984.
At the time, there were no objections but now it is becoming a complicated matter because there is too many objections, he says.
"If there was no problems in 1984, everyone accepted it, why is it that in 2016 and 2017, we have to hold such a rally?
"Why is it so complicated? We are not denying the rights of others. Are Muslims denying the rights of others? Why are some feeling uneasy when we empower the Syariah Courts?" asked Jamil Khir.
Despite the rain, rally participants are listening attentively and are waiting for the VIP of the night - PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang.
Sky opens up
7.35pm: Jalan Parlimen - The light drizzle has led to a heavy downpour during Mahgrib prayers.
After prayers, many rally participants rush for shelter which is short in supply within the vicinity.
Many are seen using placards and banners to cover themselves while rally leaders continue delivering their speeches.
Cabinet minister joins rally
7.30pm: Padang Merbok - Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Jamil Khir Baharom and Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki arrives.
Both of them are clad in purple, the theme colour of the Act 355 rally.
They make their way to the canopy at Padang Merbok as it begins to drizzle outside.
Yesterday, MCA secretary-general Ong Ka Chuan, who is also International Trade Minister II, insisted that any ministers attending the rally is not endorsed by BN or the government.
Amanah gets ticking off
6.50pm: Jalan Parlimen - A sign telling Amanah not to ally itself with the enemies of Islam is put on display on with a banner that says that the people of Bukit Tumbuh support amendment to Act 355.
Sign owner Fadil Rahman says he believes Amanah will never support the amendments as long as they maintain ties with DAP.
"They've sold their principles. Muslims would never do that.
"They've used this bill to attack PAS for their own political gain," Fadil tells Malaysiakini.
Gerakan MPs should all quit
6.40pm: Ipoh - Just an hour after the counter-rally concludes, DAP Youth chief Wong Kah Woh offers a rebuttal to Gerakan Youth deputy chief Andy Yong's speech.
Wong says Yong's pledge to quit should Gerakan MPs back Hadi's bill "does not draw much interest".
Instead, he says Gerakan MPs should resign if their coalition partner Umno were to back the bill.
"If Gerakan has the political conviction and is sincere in defending the nation's structure from being destroyed... its cabinet ministers Mah Siew Keong and Liang Teck Meng should offer to resign and pull Gerakan out from BN if Umno MPs voted for Hadi's bill," he says.
He adds that Hadi would not be able to table the private member's bill in Parliament if it was not because of Umno's support nor does PAS have enough MPs to pass the amendments without Umno.
'PM must ensure survival of Islamic laws'
6.40pm: Jalan Parlimen - Many are still heading towards Padang Merbok from Masjid Jamek. However, some are also heading back home instead of waiting for tonight’s grand finale.
Amidst the thousands of rally participants, one man, clad in traditional Malay clothes, is the centre of attention for photographers.
The man who only wants to be known as “ustaz”, even has a kris in his waistband.
He carries a banner which bear the words: "Survival of Islamic laws: the prime minister and Muslims must implement it, make it part of the constitution and uphold them".
This "ustaz" from Petaling Jaya tells Malaysiakini that he is here to fulfill his responsibility as a Muslim by upholding Allah’s laws.
Explaining his Baju Melayu outfit, he explains that he is dressed as such to showcase his Malay identity.
"As a Malay and Muslim, this kris symbolises how Malays are in charge of the country’s administration and uphold Islamic policies," he says.
Police estimates: 20,000
6.20pm: Padang Merbok - According to an official police statement, the authorities estimates crowd size to be 20,000.
Dang Wangi district police chief Mohd Sukri Kaman adds that everything was under control thus far and that Jalan Parlimen faces closure.
Crowd continues to swell at Padang Merbok
6.00pm: Padang Merbok - As the sun begins to set, it is estimated that there is currently more than 50,000 participants.
Padang Merbok is now completely filled with purple while thousands are sitting on the pavement on either side of Jalan Parlimen and the field across the street.
Thousands more are moving up and down Jalan Parlimen looking for sustenance or a place to sit.
On the main stage, popular preacher Azhar Idrus, Haslim Bahrim and Hafiz Hamidum is having a question and answer session.
Counter-rally snaps rotans in symbolic protest
5.30pm: Taman Jaya - The counter-rally here ends with the distribution of rotans, in apparent reference to PAS' bid to increase the rotan punishment from six to 100 strokes.
The crowd holds up the rotans for a photoshoot.
"This is a symbol of oppression. This is, according to the United Nations' Convention Against Torture, an instrument of torture," Asrul, one of the organisers, says to the crowd.
He leads the crowd to chant "Reject Hadi's bill".
On the count of three, he then instructs the crowd to break their rotans.
Everyone snaps the rotans in half, though an elderly woman in red standing in the front is merely able to bend hers.
"It's not breaking," she complains. "I'll send this to Hadi," she adds a little while later.
With that, the crowd disperses.
Poor health not deterrent for octogenarian
5.15pm: Jalan Parlimen - Despite suffering from many illnesses including Parkinson’s disease, this did not deter 80-year-old Yusuf Ali from joining the rally.
With the aid of a wheelchair and the company of his son, Yusuf, who comes from Sungai Besar, Selangor, says he is here to lend support to both the rally and PAS.
Yusuf recalls how he was one of the first individuals who started the Sungai Besar PAS division.
"I'm here because of the party. I remember I was the only one who received (PAS president) Abdul Hadi (Awang) when he came to my place," he says while wiping his tears.
Yusuf says that he will be part of the rally until night time, if his health permits.
According to his son, Azharuddin, his father insists on participating despite receiving advice to do otherwise due to his health.
Act 355 rally breaks for Asar prayers
5.10pm: Padang Merbok - The Act 355 rally pauses to give way to rally-goers to perform the Asar prayers.
The prayer is led by Selangor PAS ulama wing chief Ahmad Dusuki Abdul Rani.
Some people are making their way to the Bukit Aman mosque to pray, while others are praying on the roadside opposite Padang Merbok.
Hundreds have gathered up the road on Jalan Parlimen since before the break, out of earshot of the main stage.
Gerik PAS committee member Ahmad Abdul Rahman says they are seeking shade from the scorching heat, and will stay on until the rally ends tonight.
Siti Kasim urges Malays to speak up
5.00pm: Taman Jaya - Activist and lawyer Siti Kasim takes the stage and is greeted with loud cheers at the counter-rally.
She delivers a thunderous speech, urging Malays to speak up against the proposed amendments.
"We need more Malays to come up and say 'no, you are not going to talk on my behalf and not in my name'," she says.
Non-Muslims should also speak up, she says, as it is a Malaysian issue.
"If you are Malaysian, you must get involved because this is our country, not Abdul Hadi's country," she says.
'I want my baby to be a fighter for Islam'
4.40pm: Padang Merbok - Among the sea of purple is Mohamad Khairul Azmi, who drove from Kuala Terengganu with his family and four-month old baby boy.
Mohamad Khairul says he has no qualms bringing his baby to the rally as he wants his child to become a "fighter for Islam".
"Yes, it's a bit tedious bringing a baby but it's okay, my baby is a future fighter for Islam," he says.
Hadi accused of playing politics at counter-rally
4.20pm: Taman Jaya - At the counter-rally, former minister Zaid Ibrahim says PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang proposed amendments to Act 355 is not about Islam.
"It is about politics... it has nothing to do with religion," he tells the 200-strong crowd.
He adds that if the amendment was truly about the religion, PAS should have first consulted the Conference of Rulers which ovesees Islamic affairs.
"Hadi didn't go to see the Conference of Rulers. He went to see Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak instead," he says.
Zaid claims Hadi was trying to solidify's PAS' position in Kelantan with the amendment while Najib is trying to maintain his own position as prime minister.
However, he adds that the opinions he expressed did not represent his party, the DAP.
More than 25,000 people at Padang Merbok
4.15pm: Padang Merbok - The crowd grows to over 25,000 people with more people still streaming in.
However, Dang Wangi district police chief Mohd Sukri Kaman puts the figure at around 10,000 people.
The sea of purple has almost completely covered the grass field, with many also gathering outside the field and on the hill across the street.
Among those taking a high vantage point is PAS Youth member Mohd Awis Tambran, who is here with his parents, who are also party members.
"I hope MPs will take note of today's gathering, and hear the people's voice," Awis says.
Gerakan deputy youth chief given a hard time
3.50pm: Taman Jaya - As Gerakan Youth deputy chief Andy Yong is speaking, the crowd starts heckling him on BN's involvement in the proposed amendments.
Some question him on what he will do if Gerakan ends up supporting the bill, while others urge the crowd to give Yong a break.
"I'm impressed with the fact that you attended," shouts a woman in the crowd.
Yong tries to placate the crowd by insisting Gerakan has been against the bill since day one.
"If any Gerakan MP votes for the bill, I will resign," Yong said eventually, which appears to satisfy the crowd and ends his speech.
K'tan MB, Syed Hamid arrive to 'Allahuakbar'
3.40pm: Padang Merbok - Kelantan Menteri Besar Ahmad Yaakob and Syed Hamid Albar arrive to shouts of "Allahuakbar".
'We didn't have to import kids' quips counter-rallyer
3.30pm: Taman Jaya, PJ - To kick off the counter-rally, those in attendance sing the national anthem.
The crowd, which has grown to approximately 120, sits down around the amphitheatre.
Activist Azrul Mohd Khalib asks the crowd to give a round of applause to the rally at Padang Merbok for exercising their freedom of speech.
"Just as much as we are expressing our fundamental constitutionally-guaranteed rights, so are they.
"They have a right to do that, even though we don't have the nasyid groups that they do," he says.
"We didn't have to import kids from outside the state to come to the rally.
"You are all here of your own choice," he adds.
The crowd cheer him on.
Spad chief VIP guest
3.30pm: Padang Merbok - The crowd continues to grow, making it difficult to walk around on the field.
About 9,000 people are estimated to be at Padang Merbok now.
The emcee says among the VIP's present is Land Public Transport Commission (Spad) chief Syed Hamid Albar.
A group of Sikhs are also reportedly gathering at Sogo and are expected to join the rally.
Supporters’ Wing man praises Hadi's bill
3pm: Padang Merbok - Over 7,000 have gathered at Padang Merbok, sitting on the field and the surrounding steps.
The first round of speeches has begun.
PAS Supporters’ Wing information chief Balachandran G Krishnan says those afraid of the amendments are gambling den operators.
"They are afraid they will lose profits, and lose their Muslim patrons," he says.
He cites the Quran to say there is no compulsion in religion.
He adds, the amendments will not affect non-Muslims, and that all races will benefit from the implementation of Islamic law.
Slow start to counter-rally
3pm: Taman Jaya, Petaling Jaya - The crowd starts forming here at the counter-rally 'Himpunan Rakyat Tolak Usul Hadi'.
About 60 are milling around the park in front of the lake.
Some have brought their own signs to denounce the planned amendments to Act 355, while the organisers hand out signs to those who have not.
The crowd are taking pictures together with their signs while waiting for the rally to start.
Some rally goers unsure of Act 355 amendments
2.35pm: Masjid Jamek - Hundreds are now heading towards Padang Merbok.
The rally participants walk along Jalan Perak before going through Jalan Parlimen to reach Padang Merbok.
Every few minutes, shouts of “Allahuakbar” (God is Great) is heard.
Sulaiman Horujin, 68, admits he does not know much about the amendments to Act 355, but says he is here to lend support for the rally.
“I don’t really know about it, but I know that it’s in relation to Islamic laws to prevent vice and to uphold Islam,” the Perak native tells Malaysiakini.
Pekida Kelantan's show of support
2.20pm Jalan Lembah – Roughly 50 Pekida Kelantan members, dressed in black, break the silent march from Masjid Negara to Padang Merbok with shouts "Allahuakbar".
"We're here to support (of amendments) to Act 355," one of them, Rahim Jaafar, tells Malaysiakini.
Those in purple however do not join in the chants, and continue to march on with occasional chatter breaking the silence.
2.10pm: Masjid Negara - A steady stream of participants exit the national mosque to proceed to Padang Merbok.
Uncharacteristically of a rally involving PAS members, there are no chants of "Allahuakbar" (God is great).
They are also not marching as a big group.
A member of the party's Unit Amal security arm, Iskandar Ghani tells Malaysiakini that participants have been informed not to march or rally at the mosque.
"We only rally at Padang Merbok. When you march, there tends to be provocation, so they just walk," he says.
Over 1,000 pack Masjid Negara
1.45pm: Masjid Negara - Over 1,000 people in purple pack the the national mosque for Zohor prayers.
Rally participant Zamri Engku Man from Kemasik, Terengganu says he took an overnight bus to get here.
"There were 14 buses, each can ferry 44 people," the PAS member says.
He expects today's rally to be a success.
1.30pm: Masjid Jamek – Roughly 200 people can be seen withint the Masjid Jamek LRT vicinity.
Hundreds more are inside Masjid Jamek for zohor prayers.
Some 30 students, between 9 to 17 years of age, can be seen donning the rally colours.
A student tells Malaysiakini they are from a religious school in Kuantan.
“We just arrived from Kuantan. We are from Maahad Tahfiz," says the student who wants to remain anonymous.
1.22pm: Padang Merbok - Over 500 people clad in purple have gathered at Padang Merbok ahead of today's rally.
More are expected to stream in from Masjid Jamek, Masjid Negara and the Bukit Aman mosque after the zohor prayers.
Hadi expects a turnout of 200,000 today.
A big stage has been set up on the field, while at the opposite end of the field is a bazaar.
12pm: PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang's private member's bill to amend Act 355 has. been a controversial affair.
The amendments will allow PAS to implement hudud law in Kelantan.
This is because Hadi's first version of the amendment sought to remove the punishment cap for syariah offences.
Disagreements over this led to the break up of the opposition pact Pakatan Rakyat, with PAS now bitter foes with DAP.
The bill has since been watered down after the Umno-led government got into the picture.
Hadi's bill now seeks to raise the punishment cap to 30 years’ jail, RM100,000 fine and 100 strokes of the whip.
The current syariah punishment cap is three years’ imprisonment, RM5,000 fine and six strokes of the whip.
The amendment is expected to be debated in the next Parliament session, with the government taking it up once it gets to the second reading.