Flash mob hits the streets protesting price hikes, lack of press freedom

December 23, 2013 1:49 AM

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The flash mob mingling among the thousands of shoppers at a busy part of Kuala Lumpur today. - The Malaysian Insider pic by Afif Abd Halim, December 22, 2013.A group known as Jingga 13 protested against the recent slew of price hikes and the suspension of a weekly magazine by holding a flash mob, pleasantly surprising people at a popular shopping destination in Kuala Lumpur.

Jingga 13, a movement tied to Parti Keadilan Rakyat performed the flash mob today by holding posters and freezing momentarily in front of a mall along the busy Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman.

"We are protesting against the price hikes that is done without any remorse or responsibility towards the people," said Fariz Musa, who identified himself as the coordinator of the group.

"We are also showing our unhappiness against the Home Ministry's suspension of The Heat as this a gross violation of the freedom of the press," he added.

A banner circulated by the group on Twitter mentioned that it opposes the increase in electricity tariff, highway tolls, public transportation charges, KL property assessment rates, fuel, school bus fares and Astro subscription.

Surrounded by curious onlookers, Fariz shouted "Why are we here? Because the price of goods have gone up! Why? Because prices of cooking gas went up!

"Reduce, reduce, price hikes! Reduce, reduce, toll fares! Reduce, reduce, prices of goods!"

Putrajaya has been receiving a lot of flak from the public over its back-to-back price increases of necessities as part of its subsidy rationalisation programme to cut the country's fiscal deficit.

Soon after Merdeka Day, Datuk Seri Najib Razak announced a fuel increase of 20 sen per litre for RON95 petrol and diesel in September.

This was followed by the elimination of sugar subsidy of 34 sen per kg announced at the Budget 2014 presentation in Parliament on October 25.

The electricity tariff will also go up by about 15% for households and 17% for industrial and commercial beginning next month.

Except for Kesas and PLUS, toll fares are likely to increase between 50 sen and RM1, depending on the concessionaire.

Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) chairman Tan Sri Syed Hamid Albar had said that fares for the Light Rail Transit and Monorail trains running in the Klang Valley would go up in 2014 after the agency completed a review of the fare structure.

School bus operators had also requested for a 40% increase in fares and is now waiting for SPAD's decision on a new fare scheme.

Frustrated with all the increase, the group Jingga 13 hopes that the flash mob would raise awareness among the people.

"Out of our principle for compassion toward the people, we Jingga 13 organised the flash mob to make a stand and create awareness that the move to increase prices by the Barisan Nasional government would adversely impact the middle and lower class," said Fariz.

"Although Tenaga Nasional said that 70% of the people would not see an increase but obviously factories and industries would see an increase in their bills and as a result the people will see prices of goods go up," he added.

Onlooker turned participant, Suhaimi Yaacob, 46, a snack food supplier, said that the flash mob's purpose was reflective of the people's sentiments.

"Every year it has been the same, increases here and there. The public felt cheated. Before the general election, a lot of promises were made but nothing came out of it after that. Just like Mahathir said, Melayu mudah lupa," Suhaimi said, taking a now famous quote from former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamed referring to Malays as being people who easily forget the past.

"We should have compassion towards those burdened," Suhaimi added while holding on to the poster that says "Protest price hike on cooking gas".

Fariz also said that the Home Ministry's suspension of The Heat suppressed the media because "if they can do this to The Heat, they can do this to the others".

The Heat, a weekly paper, had its licence suspended on Wednesday after it published a report of hefty spending on travel and consultants by Najib and his wife, Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor.

Yesterday, the Home Ministry denied that the weekly was suspended over its reports of a profligate administration but rather it was because it had violated provisions in its printing permit.

Sources within the ministry told The Malaysian Insider that the permit given to the publisher was for the publication of a magazine and not for newspaper printing. – December 22, 2013.

Protesting against the various price hikes and the shutdown of The Heat in Kuala Lumpur today, these young men and women stand still as part of the flash mob. - The Malaysian Insider pic by Afif Abd Halim, December 22, 2013.

Source: themalaysianinsider.com

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