KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) – Malaysia’s first national flag has been raised on its capital’s new main street in a symbolic gesture of unity in a city where a bitter divide between the country’s majority Muslim majority and its majority Christian minority has long been simmering.
It was not immediately clear when the flag will be hoisted, but it will be the first in the country to be flown in public since the establishment of a unified government in July.
It will be flown next to the Malaysia flag on the new Kuala Lumpur’s central square, the main landmark of the city that has become a rallying point for supporters of rival political parties.
The government said in a statement on Wednesday that the flag was hoisted to the main thoroughfare in the centre of the central city after a formal ceremony on Wednesday, after a campaign by pro-government Malaysians who called for the flag to be hoist on a pole on the anniversary of the March 15, 1965, overthrow of then Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.
“It is a symbol of unity between Malaysians and the people of the nation, and a symbol that is very much in tune with the sentiments of the majority of Malaysians,” Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said in the statement.
The move was a sign of growing confidence in the government, which has come under increasing criticism for its handling of the crisis over the coronavirus pandemic.
Malaysia’s top court last month ruled that the government must appoint a new prime minister, and the country is now set to hold a snap election next year.
The coronaviruses pandemic has shaken the Southeast Asian nation, where almost two million people have been infected with the virus and more than 8,500 have died.
Its economy is among the world’s worst and a major contributor to a rising number of migrants from China, the worlds biggest economy, who are turning their backs on the country and moving to Malaysia.
Malay President Joko Widodo has said he is open to dialogue with opposition leaders and civil society groups, but the country remains deeply divided.