Cops powerless to act on Malaysian militants abroad, says home minister

Cops powerless to act on Malaysian militants abroad, says home minister

By Syed Jaymal ZahiidJune 27, 2014UPDATED: June 27, 2014 03:21 pm

Datuk Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said the police were powerless to prevent Malaysians from travelling abroad to engage in militant activities. — Picture by Saw Siow FengDatuk Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said the police were powerless to prevent Malaysians from travelling abroad to engage in militant activities. — Picture by Saw Siow FengPUTRAJAYA, June 27 — The police cannot be blamed for Malaysians involved in militant activities outside the country, Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said today, amid growing unease over home-grown militancy.

As concerns rise over the recruitment of Malaysians in conflict zones overseas, Zahid said the police were also powerless to prevent Malaysians from travelling abroad to engage in militant activities.

“Even if we monitor them, they are overseas… they are conducting the activities and are trained abroad, it is not the responsibility of the police,” he told reporters here

“The police can’t stop them if they have been given travelling visas to those countries,” he added.

On Tuesday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said 15 Malaysians might have been killed in Syria after joining terrorist and jihadist activities with Islamist militant group Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL), citing a June 18 news conference by the Permanent Representative of Syria to the United Nations in New York.

ISIL is a splinter group of al-Qaeda that wants to set up an Islamic caliphate encompassing both Iraq and Syria.

Zahid said a regional ring he dubbed the “Nusantara network” might be recruiting the citizens of Malaysia, Indonesia, Southern Thailand and Philippines to join in militant activities abroad.

The home minister said the police are currently monitoring the group’s online activities but did not state if the police have identified potential militants, or planned to make any arrest.

He also stressed that that the best method to curb Malaysian involvement in terror or militant activities was not through stricter laws but through social education instead.

“What is important are not the laws as they can be applied when they are arrested.

“It is more important that this culture of terrorism is not planted in those with fanatical tendencies,” he said, adding that this was the duty of society, NGOs and family members.

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Ipoh-born wins MasterChef UK with nasi lemak, wanton soup

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Ipoh-born wins MasterChef UK with nasi lemak, wanton soup

Proud of her Malaysian culinary heritage, Catherine Chin Wang Ping Coombes poses with her MasterChef UK 2014 trophy.

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Full-time mother and self-professed ‘feeder’ Catherine Chin Wan Ping Coombes does her motherland proud by winning MasterChef UK 2014 with wanton soup and nasi lemak.


Although based in the UK, Ipoh-born Catherine Chin Wan Ping Coombes, who formerly worked as an assistant hotel manager of a private hospital, is still deeply proud of the taste of home. Now she’s made us all proud by winning the British version of the popular MasterChef reality show with decidedly classier versions of Malaysian favourites.



Surprising judges with a three-course meal that could’ve come from a Malaysian neighbourhood eatery, the 33-year-old wowed their expectations with her starter of wanton soup, main course of nasi lemak, and dessert of vanilla and coconut pannacotta with charred pineapple, freeze-dried mango and ‘pineapple and lime air’.


Winning dishes: Coombes’ three-course meal for the final challenge was truly Malaysian-inspired, albeit with a dash of plating magic. Seen in the top pic is her spread of three dishes comprising (clockwise from top) wanton soup, nasi lemak and vanilla and coconut panacotta. Coombes’ creative touches came to the fore in the presentation of her wanton soup (middle pic) and nasi lemak (bottom pic).


Coombes’ Malaysian-inspired spread earned superlative comments from judges John Torode and Gregg Wallace. According to online reports of Coombes’ victory, Torode is quoted as saying of her starter: “It’s truly delicious. I don’t know how you made it. I wouldn’t be able to replicate it. It’s absolutely stunning.”


The Australian chef Torode added: “For me Ping is a cook’s cook, she gets her head down and she works really, really hard to make sure she reaches her goal. She is pretty amazing.” Meanwhile, veteran host Wallace quipped: “She inspires me, she excites me. And she cares so much. Rarely have I seen someone whose repertoire can span whole continents.”


Of her victory, Coombes compared its magnitude to when she gave birth to her daughter now-17-month-old Alexa: “The last time I felt such emotion was when my daughter was born. Something that you don’t get to experience a lot. Pure joy and pure bliss that feels incredible. Epic.”


Coombes, who credits her mum as her main inspiration, compares winning the MasterChef UK trophy to giving birth to her daughter: “Epic.”


Despite winning, Coombes was less optimistic about her chances being allowed to cook in her mother’s kitchen. “My mother will be really proud I’m sure. I say this a lot but she still won’t let me in her kitchen.” Coombes, who attributes her cooking skills to her mother and grandmother, stated that she first started cooking while studying in Oxford, and learnt to recreate her mother’s dishes to satisfy her cravings.

On her plans after winning, Coombes said that she would like to learn more about East Asian cuisine and perhaps venture into the restaurant business or open a cookery school.

Working it: Coombes seen in action during one of the show’s many cooking challenges.


Coombes won the final challenge of the tenth series of the annual reality cooking show, which aired on BBC One in the UK on the night of May 16, over her co-finalists Jack Lucas and Luke Owen. According to British bookies, Coombes was the clear favourite going into the finals after eight weeks of competition which saw her and her co-contestants cooking with surprise ingredients, feeding armies of hungry people, facing harsh criticisms and dreaded weekly eliminations.


This is not the first time a Malaysian-born has appeared in MasterChef shows in other countries. In 2009, KL-born Poh Ling Yeow became runner-up of the first season of MasterChef Australia. In 2011, Penang-born Adam Liaw ended up winning the second season of MasterChef Australia, while KL-born co-contestant Alvin Quah made it to the first round of the final six. Meanwhile, Malaysian-born Natasha Shan is currently competing in the sixth season of MasterChef Australia.




“People quit their bosses, not their jobs.” Do you agree?

“People quit their bosses, not their jobs.” Do you agree?

In HR Talk, we pick one HR related topic each week, and gather a few experts to share their opinions.

If you have a question for HR practitioners, send it to us at

Lee Soo Fern

Partner, Malaysia talent leader, talent team, Ernst & Young

I agree, as I believe what makes people stay with an employer today has more to do with the people they work for and with, as well as their experiences in the organisation, than the job itself.

Often, it is life at work, not the job itself, which is the issue.

People, particularly bosses, make the difference, and are key to whether life at work is an inspiring or dispiriting experience,

Attractive compensation packages, well-thought out policies or sophisticated facilities will lose their appeal if the employees do not feel engaged with their bosses or other people in the organization.

Employees seek bosses who are committed to investing time and effort to have conversations and bond with them, to understand what motivates them, to give them regular feedback about performance.

They look for bosses who are generous in opening doors to new learning opportunities and enriching experiences, and who will encourage and empower them.

Bosses need to be good leaders, coaches, mentors and role models to their people.

If employees feel that their bosses do not appreciate them as individuals or support their professional and personal growth and development, they will inevitably leave the organisation.

Having said that, I also believe it’s a relationship that needs to work both ways. Employees seek bosses/organisations who will serve their needs; at the same time, employees must be ready to serve the needs of the organisation.

Cheah Li Wei

Diversity and inclusion manager, Intel

Talking to employees who are looking for a new job in a different department or company, it’s usually their managers they are running away from.

They get so frustrated with ineffective managers that they are willing to undergo a major job change to avoid the managers.

When working with low morale in an organization, the manager is normally the root cause of the problem.

Employees know we are living in a challenging business world and things are tough.

What makes it different and worth facing the challenge is knowing that their hard work is appreciated by their managers.

During our leadership development programme based on Leadership Challenge by Kouzes and Posner, managers were pleasantly surprised by the positive reactions from their employees.

We also heard feedback from employees who were willing to stay in jobs that may not pay as well because they believe in their managers.

Case in point, I have stayed in the same company for 20 years and have had great managers in my 20 years.

My managers helped me grow as a person and many helped me to move to my next job for the benefit of my career path.

So yes, I definitely believe that people stay in the job because of their managers.

Datin Badrunnisa Mohd Yasin Khan

Group chief talent officer, Axiata Group Berhad

A large part of a job is WHO the job is done for. More often than not, this is the boss.

The relationship with the boss must work like an oiled machine if the job is going to be meaningful for the employee. Some of the considerations in this relationship are:

· Setting clear directions, goals and target. Direction is the overall compass so that employees know where the organisation is heading and therefore can make the necessary trade offs.

· Goals and targets define the expectations of deliverables and standards.

· Being empowered by the boss, which means the boss after setting the directions, goals and targets (i.e the context of the deliverables) leaves the employee to actually deliver in the way he sees fit.

· If a boss starts to micromanage, where every step is under scrutiny, then the employee will not feel empowered and will then feel they just have to follow instructions blindly, hence not contributing to their own growth and development.

· On growth and development, the boss must ensure that the employee has the capability to actually deliver.

· This can come in the form of sending the employee to training programmes, providing on-the-job coaching and giving regular feedback on how the employee is doing in his work.

· This is like the old age saying – teach someone to fish rather than giving him the fish.

· Motivating the employee. People are complex creatures. They are not machines that can just do the work repeatedly without any need for motivating factors except to make sure they don’t run out of fuel or breakdown for lack of maintenance!

· For people, there may be other factors that stop them from doing their best. A good boss will know how to pick up the signals, manage the emotions of the employee, and provide a healthy environment for the employee to give his best.

· The HR term for this is employee engagement – which is based on a complex set of reasons as to why an employee would want to go the extra mile in doing his job.

Kenneth Ho

Location HR leader – Malaysia & Brunei, human resources, IBM Malaysia

Yes, employees make decision based on emotion and most of the time, this emotional commitment means engaged employees actually wants to be cared by their bosses.

They don’t work just for a paycheck, or just for the next promotion, but work on behalf of the organisation’s goals.

When employees care—when they are engaged—they use discretionary effort. Engaged employees lead to…

· higher service, quality, and productivity, which leads to…

· higher customer satisfaction, which leads to…

· increased sales (repeat business and referrals), which leads to…

· higher levels of profit, which leads to…

· higher shareholder returns (i.e., stock price).

We believe that high employees engagement will link to greater business results.

Therefore, in IBM, people managers play a highly important role and are guided by the following expectations: · Ensure employees understand how their work contributes to the company.

· Managers to lead by example. Employees tend to follows what you do and not what you say.

· Set clear performance standards and provide straightforward feedback. Recognise outstanding contributions.

· Listen to employees, address their issues and help employees succeed.

· Foster teamwork across locations, cultures and geographies.

· Encourage innovative culture, and support ideas that should be implemented. · Develop the people with whom you work.

Chua Chai Ping,

Human resources director, Accenture Malaysia

There’s a similar saying which goes, “People join companies but leave their bosses”.

While there may be a lot of truth that people leave demanding bosses and we hear a lot of horror stories of nasty superiors, we must balance the situation.

The reasons behind a “bad” boss are aplenty. It could be due to the simple fact that the employee is not performing to expectations, the deadlines are too tight or even personality clashes.

While I agree that a boss has to make an effort to keep employees engaged, the effort must be reciprocated with good performance outcomes.

Sometimes, the boss may have done his or her best. However, if the career aspirations of the employee are not aligned with the organization’s overall strategy, the employee may still leave although he or she has an excellent relationship with the boss.

Accenture’s respect for the individual core value is our guiding force for us to foster a trusting, open and inclusive environment at all levels.

Our leaders act as mentors and career counsellors and play an important role in helping our people manage their careers and develop professionally.

They are equipped with the skills to manage culture, performance, teams and transitions.

We ensure new supervisors and managers are ready for their roles and constantly updated through coaching, supervising and teaching programmes.

In essence, not only should leaders be equipped but engaged to ensure employees have a balance between performance outcomes and an experiential career journey.

Black box batteries thought to have died as search for Malaysia Airlines jet becomes more difficult


Black box batteries thought to have died as search for Malaysia Airlines jet becomes more difficult
Fears are mounting that the batteries inside Malaysia Airlines MH370’s black box may have finally died, as all goes quiet in the hunt for the missing plane

The survey ship HMS Echo is pictured as a Lockheed P-3 Orion flies overhead in the southern Indian Ocean


The hunt for the missing Malaysia Airlines jet is likely to become even more challenging, as aviation experts say that the black box signal appears to have finally gone dead.

Following four strong underwater signals in the past week, all has now gone quiet. No new electronic “pings” have been detected since Tuesday, when an Australian ship dragging a US Navy listening device last picked up a signal.

“We’re now into Day 37 of this tragedy,” said aviation expert Geoffrey Thomas. “The battery life on the beacons is supposed to last 30 days.”

He told AP: “We’re hoping it might last 40 days. However, it’s been four or five days since the last strong pings. What they’re hoping for is to get one more, maybe two more pings so they can do a triangulation of the sounds and try and narrow the (search) area.”

Despite the lack of response from what is thought to be the black box, search teams were still scouring 22,000 square miles area of ocean, 1,370 miles northwest of Perth. Up to 12 planes and 14 ships were participating in the hunt.

Tony Abbott, the Australian prime minister, said he was confident that the pings picked up by the Australian ship were coming from the plane’s two black boxes, but he cautioned that finding the actual aircraft could take a long time.

“There’s still a lot more work to be done and I don’t want anyone to think that we are certain of success – or that success, should it come, is going to happen in the next week or even month,” he said on Saturday in Beijing, at the end of a visit to China.

“There’s a lot of difficulty and a lot of uncertainty left in this.”

Once officials are confident that no more sounds will be heard, a robotic submarine will be sent down to slowly scour for wreckage.

The underwater search zone is currently a 500-square-mile patch of the seabed, about the size of Los Angeles.

The sub takes six times longer to cover the same area as the ping locator, and will need about six weeks to two months to canvass the current underwater zone. The signals are also coming from 15,000 feet below the surface, which is the deepest the sub can dive.

Recovering the plane’s flight data and cockpit voice recorders is essential for investigators to try to figure out what happened to Flight 370, which vanished March 8. It was carrying 239 people, mostly Chinese, while en route from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Beijing.


Jackie Chan chopsticks portrait by REDhongyi

Jackie Chan chopsticks portrait by REDhongyi


PETALING JAYA: Malaysian artist Hong Yi celebrated the 60th birthday of Hong Kong superstar Jackie Chan by creating a portrait of him with 64,000 chopsticks.

The 28-year-old Sabahan, who was trained as an architect and goes by the nickname Red, worked on the art piece throughout March and spent up to 12 hours a day tying chopsticks together for two weeks straight.

On Monday, she presented the complete work to Chan at his 60th birthday concert in Beijing.

In a time-lapse video of the creation process which was uploaded to her YouTube channel, Hong engages in a playful chopstick tussle with Chan over plates of food, with surprising results.

The scene is a homage to Chan’s use of the eating utensils in fight scenes in films such as Fearless Hyena and The Karate Kid.

Hong also used the disposable bamboo variety of chopsticks to illustrate how such materials can be reused to create something meaningful and beautiful.

“I spent a month collecting these bamboo chopsticks from cafes, stalls and factories in Zhejiang and Beijing, then tying each of them up,” she said in her YouTube video description.

Netizens have responded to the art installation with surprise and delight, with local Instagram user @spinzer commenting that Chan was lucky to have received Hong’s artistic tribute.

YouTube user Klancy Kennedy also remarked that the large-scale installation was perfect as “anything in big numbers is well loved” in China’s art scene.

“There’s so much performance art that uses thousands of people to make a picture. Teamwork is a big deal. 64,000 chopsticks is perfect as it doesn’t just fit Jackie Chan. It fits the culture where many small things in unison make something big and strong,” he commented.

Known as the artist who “loves to paint, but not with a paintbrush”, Hong’s use of unusual materials for her creations has caught the world’s attention many times over.

Among her works are a portrait of national shuttler Datuk Lee Chong Wei using shuttlecocks and a likeness of Myanmar’s opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi made from 2,000 dyed carnations. Hong’s breakthrough project came in Jan 2012 when she used a basketball dipped in red paint to paint a portrait of former Chinese NBA star Yao Ming.

6 Reasons Why Anwar Thinks He’s More Qualified Than Najib In Managing MH370 Investigations

6 Reasons Why Anwar Thinks He’s More Qualified Than Najib In Managing MH370 Investigations

According to Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, he is much more qualified to lead the MH370 investigations compared to Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak.

1. “They are weak and indecisive. But there is a silver lining. We can say that the management of the country, Malaysia’s leadership is being tested.”

Last updated by meimeichu 22 days ago

    Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has said he is the most qualified individual to answer questions regarding the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370. The PKR de facto leader said this was because Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, despite being the prime minister, was afraid to face the barrage of questions from the international media.



    “They are weak and indecisive. But there is a silver lining. We can say that the management of the country, Malaysia’s leadership is being tested. “I am surprised why the entire world is saying Najib is not willing to go before the international media,” Anwar said last night during a campaign speech in Kajang, ahead of the by-election on Sunday.


2. “Najib is only familiar with Utusan Malaysia and TV3, it is a weakness which has shocked the world.”

Last updated by meimeichu 22 days ago

    “Najib is only familiar with Utusan Malaysia and TV3,” Anwar told a crowd of 300 PR supporters. The Permatang Pauh MP said that Najib’s evasion exposed his flaws and weaknesses. “It is a weakness which has shocked the world,” Anwar said.


3. “Today at 3pm, more media are preparing to interview me. They said if they interviewed me, I answer their questions. If they interview Najib, he just gives statements. So it is better if I replaced him.”

Last updated by meimeichu 22 days ago

    In comparison, Anwar said, the international media was now more comfortable interviewing him because of his ability to handle questions related to MH370. “Today at 3pm, more media are preparing to interview me. They said if they interviewed me, I answer their questions. “If they interview Najib, he just gives statements. So it is better if I replaced him.”


4. “In my opinion, Najib is no longer fit to lead Malaysia.”

Last updated by meimeichu 22 days ago

    Anwar said in the midst of the MH370 crisis, everyone could see how unwieldy and disorganised the country’s leadership was, especially the prime minister. “In my opinion, Najib is no longer fit to lead Malaysia,” he said.


5. “Because of Najib’s weaknesses, Barisan Nasional’s attempt to end my political career through the courts also failed when the international media began looking for an explanation into the incident.”

Last updated by meimeichu 22 days ago

    “Because of Najib’s weaknesses, Barisan Nasional’s attempt to end my political career through the courts also failed when the international media began looking for an explanation into the incident. Now the roles have been reversed, instead of blanking me out, now all the international media want to interview me again.”


6. Anwar Then Moved On To Lambast Acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein Who Has Been The Face Of MH370 Investigation

Last updated by judithyeoh 21 days ago

    Later, Anwar told reporters that acting Transport Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein’s was not consistent in his remarks about being “above politics” in handling the search.



    “He said this was above politics but the briefing (last night’s) was only for Barisan Nasional MPs… I would say it is not consistent, he does not honour his commitment,” he said referring to the exclusive briefing for BN backbenchers at a hotel in Kuala Lumpur last night.


International media has been criticising Malaysia’s leaders after issues of inconsistency and transparency surface throughout the MH370 search and rescue operation

Last updated by meimeichu 22 days ago

Malaysians, including controversial cartoonist Zunar, are also becoming frustrated with the inconclusive statements released by the Malaysian authorities

Last updated by meimeichu 22 days ago

Hishammuddin Hussein, who has been conducting daily press conferences, insists that they have been consistent with their release of corroborated information

Last updated by meimeichu 22 days ago

Staying safe during the heatwave

Published: Saturday February 15, 2014 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Saturday February 15, 2014 MYT 9:18:03 AM

Staying safe during the heatwave

WARNING bells just went off to alert Malay-sians on the possible exposure to volcanic ash from the recent eruption of Mount Sinabung in north Sumatra.

The ash along with smog from factories and motor vehicles as well as forest fires, due to prolonged drought in several parts of the nation, could exacerbate the air quality.

Below are several ways to protect yourself and your loved ones.

Children can be protected by minimising outdoor activities and staying indoors more.

To clean the air indoors, set-up air-purifying devices at homes as these purifiers would be able to reduce the amount of fine particles in a room to an acceptable level during severe haze incidents.

Instead of using fans, using air-conditioners is more advisable.

However, make sure that they are at good working condition by regularly servicing them to avoid the penetration of the fine particulate matters into your indoor air.

The health risks can also be reduced by wearing masks or respirators when we are outdoors to protect us from breathing the fine particulates in the air.

Another way is by closing all windows and openings that may allow particles to enter indoor facilities.

Also, people are advised to not wear contact lenses during hazy period as this may irritate the eyes and finally end up causing blindness.

Also, avoid driving when the visibility is severely affected.

You are advised to drink more water and eat more fruits and vegetables to flush out the toxins from your body.

Minimise the intake of coffee and alcohol to avoid body fluid loss.

Avoid smoking indoors which could add up to the level of smoke particles.

For those suffering from heart and respiratory illnesses, please take your medication regularly and seek medical attention immediately should you develop any breathlessness.

On another note, the heat wave could also lead to water stress due to lack of rainfall.

Forest/bush fires could further increase the demand for water.

Thus, it is important for us to use water wisely and avoid water wastage.

Finally, it is our responsibility to prevent

forest/bush fire by refraining from performing any open burning.

To report open burning, call JASLine at 1800-88-2727. In an event of forest/bush fire quickly contact Bomba at 999.



Research and Policy Executive

Forum Air Malaysia

Kangkung memang BOLEH

Kangkung3 Kangkung4



Rahsia di Sebalik Kangkung Selepas PM Umunkan Harganya Turun
















From McKangkung to World Kangkung Day


From McKangkung to World Kangkung Day



Netizens make fun of Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak’s endorsement for water spinach.

PETALING JAYA: Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak’s endorsement for the fall in the prices of water spinach (kangkung) continues to prompt Malaysian netizens to join the fray to “support” the premier’s endorsement.
A page called Hari Kangkung Sedunia has been created on social networking website, Facebook while Jan 13 is now officially declared World Kangkung Day.
Among others the page speculated that major fast food outlets would have to rebrand some of the popuar selling products, citing as examples Kangkung Fried Chicken, Burger Kangkung and McKangkung.
The endorsement for kangkung have gone viral via a 1:24 minute on YouTube. The video with 44,235 hits is a result of combining two video clips.
The first part depicted Najib delivering an official speech. The second part is where he speaks of kangkung.
“Today I read in the newspaper that the prices of some things that have dropped. The price of kangkung increased before this and now it has gone down.
“When this happens, they don’t want to praise the government. But when it rises, they blame the government… This is not fair as it is due to weather conditions,” Najib was quoted as saying in the video which was posted on Jan 12.
Online mocking
Among the many criticisms levelled at Najib included one from this Twitter user, @rb_poetry who mocked Najib: “Kangkung brains. Najib’s makes fun of kangkung prices and it becomes national comedy.”
On Facebook, Facebook user Arlene Tan even wrote a pantun as the “kangkung” made waves among Malaysians on cyberspace.
Tan wrote:
Lenggang kangkung mencari Rosmah,
Sambil bersyukur kangkung murah
Harga naik, takde Bajet beli rumah,
Tapi takpe, setahunya kangkung ku jamah
Even Urban, Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Minister Abdul Rahman Dahlan took the jokes in a good stride.
In a Twitter message to PKR vice president Nurul. Izzah Anwar, he said:
“@mpkotabelud: @n_izzah Ok2.. Enjoy the kangkung joke while it lasts. Don’t type #kangkang, like my friend typed. It spoils the punch line.”

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Thousands protest price hikes in Malaysia

Thousands protest price hikes in Malaysia


12:33 pm | Wednesday, January 1st, 2014
Malaysian protesters gather during a protest against the rising cost of living in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2013. AP

KUALA LUMPUR–Thousands of demonstrators clad in black flooded a square in the center of the Malaysian capital late Tuesday to protest at increases in petrol and other prices, putting pressure on a government struggling to reduce debt.

Demonstrators gathered at Kuala Lumpur’s Independence Square in defiance of police warnings not to rally and caused a New Year Eve’s performance held there by the city to be cut short.

The protest ended peacefully after midnight. Organizers said some 15,000 people attended the rally, while police put the number at 5,000.

Wearing black T-shirts and Guy Fawkes masks — a symbol of anti-establishment defiance worldwide — the protestors carried posters that read “Drop prices” and “Defending our rights” and chanted “Long live the people”.

“Today is a signal. We hope the government realizes that the people are angry and can listen to our demands — reduce the cost of living for the people,” Bukhairy Sofian, chairman of youth group Student Solidarity Movement Malaysia, said after giving a speech together with other activists and opposition politicians.

“There is too much corruption,” he said, adding there could be more protests.

Prime Minister Najib Razak, whose Barisan Nasional (National Front) coalition won May elections with its worst showing yet in its 56-year rule, has been struggling to reduce the debt of Southeast Asia’s third largest economy.

In his New Year message, Najib said cutting subsidies of essentials, such as petrol and sugar, which cost the government billions of dollars, and raising other prices were “necessary”.

“We must accept that we have to make changes to keep our finances under control,” he said, adding low-income earners would continue to receive handouts to help them.

Petrol prices rose 10.5 percent when the government cut fuel subsidies for the first time since 2010 in September, while electricity tariffs have been increased by some 15 percent.

Malaysia has one of Asia’s highest debt-to-GDP ratios, and Fitch ratings agency in July warned the country to get its financial house in order or face a possible sovereign-debt downgrade.

Malaysian critics say the government has failed in its pledge to fight endemic corruption.

Authorities had urged people not to gather, alleging protesters would cause unrest, but hundreds of police on stand-by allowed them to rally.

A 2012 electoral reform demonstration at the square ended in violence when protesters broke through a barricade and police retaliated with tear gas, water cannon and mass arrests.

“The government earns a lot. There are many things that they can do to take care of the people. But the cost of living is getting higher and higher,” said Shafiq Baik, 23, who earns about 800 ringgit ($240) a month selling chicken rice.

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