Why did the police have to shrink the crowd size?

COMMENTARY

In a surprise turn of events, Malaysian police retracted its original estimate of the crowd's size at the "Himpunan Kebangkitan Rakyat" rally on Saturday.

At 2:45pm, PDRM tweeted that an estimated crowd of 80,000 people had gathered for the "Himpunan Kebangkitan Rakyat". This number was quickly picked up on by Opposition-leaning media and supporters and the news spread like wildfire through the online news portals and social media.

However, another tweet was posted by the PDRM shortly after, clarifying that the estimation was a “technical error.”

“The real number will be announced by the Kuala Lumpur police chief or district police chief,” read the latest message.

Dang Wangi district police chief Asst Comm Zainuddin Ahmad later met the press to give the official estimates.

“We estimate that there were about 40,000 people... between 40,000 and 45,000,” he said, adding that there was an estimated 10,000 rally-goers outside the venue, while the remaining were packed into the stadium.

100,000 throng Stadium Merdeka for 'Uprising' rally

Despite the correction, a quick check on Twitter, Facebook and online news portals show that the magic 80,000 number has stuck and does not seem to be going anywhere.

However, reactions to this news was immediate, with many people mocking the correction.

One reader on Malaysiakini's Facebook page said sarcastically, "15,000 only, right???" Another reader said, "They were using RAIS YATIM calculation method!" referring to the Information Minister's incredulous estimate of last year's April 28 rally.

100,000 throng Stadium Merdeka for 'Uprising' rally

Over on Twitter, the momentum of the PDRM's original 80,000 estimate has not slowed at all, with Tweeters retweeting the number. The PDRM's correction was quickly brushed aside or mocked, before Netizens went on with their enthusiasm for the rally.

The fact is, no one can say for sure exactly how many turned up at the rally. The best anyone can do is to give an intelligent estimate.

At previous mass rallies, the PDRM had always insisted that they had the realistic estimates as opposed to the organisers estimates. The dispute had always been acrimonious, with supporters from both sides of the political divide accusing each party of 'fixing' the numbers to fit their own agenda.

The rally organisers were accused of padding the numbers to portray an image of popular support, while the police were bitterly accused of gross underestimation to minimise impact on BN supporters' morale.

This time however, most people assumed that the police did give a fairly accurate estimate originally. It seemed consistent with the many photos being uploaded on social networking and online news portals.

And after having done an excellent job of facilitating such a massive rally, most people were willing to forgive and forget the PDRM's harsh actions during past rallies. Commentors following the events online in fact consistently praised the police's professionalism.

However, this one 'clarification' may do more harm to the PDRM's image than all the hard work they did to repair it earlier in the day. The question remains: why did the police have to revise the numbers?

The negative reactions arising from the police's revised number is a pity as the general opinion among the public was that the police had been doing a great job facilitating the rally. This is a great morale booster for the force, not to mention a much-needed image polisher as well.

All that good work by our boys in blue may have been in vain now.

100,000 banjiri stadium, himpunan lancar

Pusat bandar Kuala Lumpur dibanjiri 100,000 penyokong Pakatan Rakyat yang hadir ke Himpunan Kebangkitan Rakyat di Stadium Merdeka - himpunan paling besar anjuran gabungan parti tersebut bagi menghadapi pilihan raya umum ke-13.



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