KUALA LUMPUR: Police fired water cannons at unruly ethnic Malays trying to assert their political dominance at a rally in support of embattled Prime Minister Najib Razak, sparking fears of racial tension in the multiethnic country with large Chinese and Indian minorities.
Thousands of Malays carrying banners and shouting slogans such as 'Long live the Malays' took to the streets to support Najib, under pressure to resign over a USD 700 million financial scandal.
The Malays rally comes in response to Chinese and Indians gathering in large number in an anti-government rally onAugust 29 and 30, demanding Najib's resignation after leaked documents showed that USD 700 million had been deposited in his private accounts from a state fund.
Najib has denied the charges and the country's anti-graft body has cleared him of the charges. The government has calledthem "political donations" from Middle Eastern sources but has refused to give details.
Supporting the Prime Minister, the red shirt Malaysprotesters belonging to ruling party United Malay National Organisation (Umno) gathered in Chinatown area's Petaling Street and refused to back down in a stand-off with the police even after water cannons were fired at them.
The protesters insisted that they should be allowed to enter Petaling Street and threatened to break through the barricade. Two protesters and a policeman were injured in the clash.
The crowd threw bottles at the police and a commotion broke out forcing the police to fire water cannons.
The disturbance was believed to have been partly caused by the arrests of two protesters.
Umno is a component of the ruling Barisan coalition party. The other two main components are Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) and the ethnic Indian Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC).
Umno is the majority party comprising Malays who are all Muslims.
Unlike the earlier anti-government rally, which was banned by police, the Malays' protest was allowed but they were warned by authorities not to carry banners or posters with racial overtones.
Premier Najib had said that he would not stop Umno members from attending the rally.
The rally has come under critics from opposition parties, a few Umno members and former premier Mahathir Mohammad.
UMNO has controlled multi-ethnic Malaysia since its independence 58 years, reserving economic and other advantages for Muslim Malays, much to the dismay ethnic Chinese and Indian minorities living here.
The Malays see Chinese, who represent 25 per cent of Malaysia's population, and the Indians, who comprise 10 per cent, as outsiders.
Although some Malays also oppose Najib, most of the Chinese and Indians have moved away from supporting his government in recent years.