Protesters rally to demand ouster of Malaysian PM
Electoral reform group expects over 40,000 participants as police tighten security around major landmarks, roads leading to Kuala Lumpur
Thousands of Malaysians wearing banned yellow T-shirts are gathering Saturday for a rally that has been declared unlawful, demanding institutional reforms and the ouster of Prime Minister Najib Razak.
Around 10,000 protesters in Independence Square carried banners accusing Razak of corruption and cronyism while chanting "step down Najib" and "bersih" – which means "clean” in Malay and is the name of the electoral reform group that organized the weekend rally.
An Anadolu Agency reporter at the scene said that additional crowds weaved through heavy barricades and roadblocks to pour into area, where Malaysia will celebrate its 58th Independence Day on Monday.
The government banned Bersih's yellow T-shirts and logo Friday, days after blocking access to the group's website as well as other sites seen as promoting or sharing information about the rally.
The protesters are demanding an emergency parliamentary sittings to pass a no confidence vote against Razak, who has been accused of graft and financial mismanagement at debt-ridden state fund 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB), and a multi-million-dollar donation made into his personal account.
B. Rajamanickam, a protester who travelled more than 250 kilometers to join the rally, told Anadolu Agency that the Malaysian people are full of anger toward the "corrupted and frail administration of Razak", whose ousting he said would be the best move to save the deteriorating economy.
"We had enough of him. His recent set of actions have really angered Malaysians and our main motive here today is to show him that not everyone can be silenced," he stressed.
Chiew Lai Ngor, another participant who works as an accountant, said Razak should have realized his mistakes by now and should tender his resignation.
She derided claims that the nearly 2.6 billion Ringgit ($700 million) transferred to Razak’s account had been a donation from the Middle East, calling them "a blatant lie” since political donations cannot be deposited into an individual's account.
She also refuted claims that the funds had been donated by the Saudi royal family for Razak to remain in power and for Malaysia to fight against Daesh.
"The Arab Saudi royalty only donated $100 million to the United Nations to fight IS [Daesh], but gave Najib $700 million? This entire drama does not make sense."
In July, the Wall Street Journal reported that investigators probing the debt-laden fund had discovered that nearly 2.6 billion Ringgit ($700 million) was deposited into Najib's private bank account.
Although Malaysia's anti-graft agency has verified that the funds were a donation from the Middle East, on Aug. 3 it said it would ask Najib to explain why the money was placed into his private account.
1MDB is 42 billion Ringgit ($11 billion) in debt, and Razak is chair of its advisory board.
Roadblocks were set up along major roads leading to the capital Saturday, with police instructed to stop cars carrying more than three people wearing yellow to prevent them from joining the 34-hour rallies.
Earlier this week, Military Chief General Zulkifeli Mohd Zin had said the military was prepared to intervene in the rally if the government declared a state of emergency, sparking concerns of an outbreak of violence.
The weekend rally is planned to be held simultaneously in the cities of Kuala Lumpur, Kuching and Kota Kinabalu -- as well as major cities worldwide.
Bersih's chairwoman, Maria Chin Abdullah, had earlier told Anadolu Agency that participants would be joining in the march to press for institutional reforms, the freedom to protest, measures to save the economy and a clean government and political system.
Likening the rally to a "vote of no-confidence against Razak", she said Friday that they expected more than 40,000 supporters in Kuala Lumpur alone amid "record queries and sales of yellow T-shirts."
Last Modified: 2015-08-29 08:42:18
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