By Shazwan Mustafa Kamal
KUALA LUMPUR, May 27 — The Barisan Nasional (BN) government will defend the rights and look after the needs of all petty traders and small business owners, the prime minister told the community tonight.
Datuk Seri Najib Razak reminded a 10,000-strong crowd at a Barisan Nasional-backed (BN) 1 Malaysia gathering here that they had the power to choose which government would look after their affairs in the coming general election.
He reminded them of BN’s past contributions, blaming the organisers and supporters of last month’s Bersih 3.0 rally for causing petty traders “millions of ringgit” in losses.
“All of you here have the power, the right. Ask yourself, who has been defending you all this while?
“Who gave you microcredit? Who gave infrastructure for small-time traders? None other than the Barisan Nasional (BN) government,” he said at the 1 Malaysia petty traders and small business owners’ gathering at Dataran Merdeka.
Najib announced a reduction of registration rates for small businesses — they will now only have to pay RM50 for five years compared to the usual rate of RM150 (single business owners) and RM300 (business partnerships).
He also announced a 50 per cent reduction in compounds for the late registration of licensing fees for such businesses, saying that the grace period will begin on June 1 and end on December 31.
Najib added the government would be introducing a special “cluster” insurance scheme, and that the Ministry of Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism would be tasked with overseeing the affairs of traders and businesses.
“This is the BN government’s special offering to you all,” Najib said, smiling.
“Traders, businessmen here have shown they can gather peacefully. We can sit in one line under these tents. What is the need for street demonstrations to make a statement? The statement made tonight is great and needs to be recognised.
This is a clear signal that no one can doubt the might of traders and businessmen, if they want to gather and show their strength. — Najib Razak
“This is a clear signal that no one can doubt the might of traders and businessmen, if they want to gather and show their strength,” said Najib to huge cheers from the crowd.
“What is the need for street demonstrations to make a statement? The statement made tonight is great and needs to be recognised.
“If (only) they (Bersih) had listened to the government’s advice to have their gathering at the stadium. Don’t destroy the fate of the traders, businesses that we (BN) are supposed to defend,” the PM said.
The April 28 rally that saw tens of thousands gather at six different locations before heading to Dataran Merdeka was peaceful until about 2.30pm when Bersih co-chairman Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan asked the crowd to disperse.
But her announcement was not heard by most of the crowd who continued to linger around the historic square which the court had already barred to the public over the weekend.
Just before 3pm, some protesters breached the barricade surrounding the landmark, leading police to disperse the crowd with tear gas and water cannons.
Police then continued to pursue rally-goers down several streets amid chaotic scenes which saw violence from both sides over the next four hours.
Several dozen demonstrators have claimed that they were assaulted by groups of over 10 policemen at a time and visual evidence appears to back their claim but police also point to violence from rally-goers who also attacked a police car.