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Malaysia’s New Year Protest Against Price Hikes

A New Year’s Eve party in Kuala Lumpur was turned into a protest event as thousands of Malaysians voiced their opposition to looming price hikes in several basic goods and services.

Organized mainly by students, the Reduce Cost of Living Movement (Gerakan Turun Kos Sara Hidup), or Turun mobilized thousands to join the annual New Year countdown at Dataran Merdeka park and use the occasion to protest against the rising cost of living in the country.

The government has announced that it will be cutting fuel and sugar subsidies to rationalize public spending. On the other hand, there will be price increases in electricity tariffs, petrol, sugar, assessment rates for Kuala Lumpur properties, public transport fees and toll rates for highways.

The police allowed the protesters to go near the venue but they accused the protesting youth of disrupting the event. Fireworks were cancelled and the concert was stopped which disappointed many people.

anilnetto noticed that most of the protesters were young:

Many of the protesters appeared to be youths who will be hard-pressed to cope with the rising cost of living.

… salute to the brave Malaysians who defied warnings and claimed their democratic right to assemble peacefully last night.

Alternative news group Malaysiakini covered the event and observed the following:

The majority of the protesters are youths. The atmosphere is boisterous with the singing of the national anthem, speeches and slogan chanting throughout the entire procession.

Interestingly, the traffic police who were directing traffic at the nearby intersections have left their posts.

This video shows several scenes of the New Year protest:

But the police believes the rally received minimal public support:

Actually, they are only a small group trying to ride on the wave of the New Year celebration to give an impression that the rally received a widespread support with the visuals downloaded onto social websites.

Meanwhile, the protesters denied they were unruly during the activity and they cited the community singing of the national anthem before the dispersal of the protest as proof that ordinary Malaysians were supportive of the protest.

Using the Twitter hashtag #turun, Malaysian netizens shared their reactions about the protest. Some expressed admiration for the bravery of the protesters but others urged the group to air their grievances at a proper time and venue.

A few days ago, the government announced that it will implement 11 austerity measures in an apparent bid to quell the rising public dissatisfaction over the price hikes. But despite this announcement, the Turun protest continued to pushed through.

Zurairi AR analyzed why the Turun protest quickly gathered momentum in the past few days:

In a way, the group made its point: 2014 is “the year people suffer” from price and rate hikes, it claimed. There is nothing to be happy about the New Year.

The objective of the rally had been made very clear from the beginning by its organisers: to protest against a number of price and rate hikes, and the spiralling cost of living.

Perhaps there is another lesson here for activists: that the issues most dear to the people and capable of spurring massive turnouts are about civil liberties and bread-and-butter issues.

And Turun was about the falling value of money in our wallets, and just like the others they attracted people from all walks of life.

The Turun protest was perhaps a preview of what will happen in Malaysia in the next few months if the government fails to reverse the economic hardships experienced by its citizens.

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