According to sources, a smaller group had brought along the banner.
A majority of the 20 individuals arrested in connection with an unlawful assembly in Parit Raja, Batu Pahat, Johor were merely participants of an annual custom held every Hari Raya eve, according to sources on the ground.
Two sources who spoke to Malaysiakini said the gathering of locals on motorcycles with firecrackers and flares on Hari Raya eve was a common sight every year.
This year, however, a smaller group of individuals had brought along a banner that read ‘kerajaan gagal’ (failed government) in what appeared to be a direct snub at Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s Perikatan Nasional administration.
Batu Pahat district police chief Ismail Dollah previously said the same banner was also found hung at a pedestrian bridge at Jalan Parit Raja toward Ayer Hitam.
Thirteen of 20 individuals remanded in connection with the incident were released on bail yesterday (May 16).
Meanwhile, police obtained an additional two days remand order from today against the remaining seven individuals, according to lawyer Dahlia Tan.
The case is being probed under Section 144 of the Penal Code, Section 269 of the Penal Code, Section 505(b) of the Penal Code Section 8 of the Explosive Act 1957, and Regulation 17 of the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 2021.
One of the sources, who was among those released, said he arrived on site only after the alleged rioting had taken place.
“I don’t know who planned the banner incident…This motorcycle gathering with firecrackers, flares, we do it every year here (in Parit Raja),” said the teenager who requested anonymity.
“We also didn’t know what was planned,” he added.
Another DAP source also said they were informed of the annual custom to usher in the Hari Raya celebration, mostly involving local youths on motorcycles.
While noting that a majority of those arrested appeared to be unaware of any hidden agenda, the source said there also seems to be little resistance to the ‘kerajaan gagal’ message highlighted this year.
“It wasn’t like the group was chased away,” noted the state assemblyperson.
All 20 men aged between 16 and 28 were detained following public tip-offs upon discovery of the banner in Parit Raja on May 13.
A two-minute video showing a group lighting flares, with the banner hung in the background, also went viral.