Some 50,000 march in Kuala Lumpur calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Najib
Najib Razak has long been at the centre of a scandal for years. A “yellow wave" of protesters marched, sang, and discussed the issue, demanding the release of Maria Chin Abdullah, head of Bersih, who was arrested on the eve of the march on charges of extremism.
Kuala Lumpur (AsiaNews) – Tens of thousands of Malaysians gave embattled but defiant Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak a rousing call to resign over his alleged involvement in a multibillion-dollar misappropriation scandal.
Wearing yellow shirts, a huge crowd of some 50,000 people marched in the streets of the capital in a rally called by a pro-democracy group called Bersih (clean in Malaysian).
Saturday’s boisterous "yellow wave march" saw people carry hundreds of banners, placards and caricatures demanding Najib’s resignation. Over the past few months, the latter has ruled with an iron fist in order to stay in power.
Former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, a vehement Najib critic, joined the protesters in front of the Twin towers immediately after arriving from Sudan.
Wearing the Bersih yellow shirt, the 91-year-old Mahathir said that " We are no longer a democracy, we are known as a kleptocracy. This is the time we work together to bring down this cruel government."
Bersih deputy chairman Shahrul Shaari Aman told the crowd near the National Mosque, “We are not here to bring down the country. We love this country! We are not here to tear down the government, we're here to strengthen it."
One of the country's most renowned artist, documentary film maker Fahmi Reza, wielding a poster said, "Our country is being governed by clowns and crooks. So I'm here to protest against the government."
A few days before the rally, Malaysian police had warned that the protest was illegal and that it would not hesitate from using tear gas and water cannons in case the situation degenerated. However, despite the warning, the march went ahead without incidents.
Despite the presence of almost 7,000 policemen near the protest areas, spirits were high among protesters. Amid drums and vuvuzelas, participants delivered speeches, sang and chanted for a clean Malaysia and people power.
Najib came under criticism after the Wall Street Journal reported last year that almost US$ 700 million were moved from the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) investment fund to his personal bank account.
He ran into further trouble this July when lawsuits filed by the US Justice Department said that more than US$ 3.5 billion had been stolen from 1MDB, which Najib had set up, and that some of those funds had been deposited into the accounts of ‘Malaysian Official 1’, whom US and Malaysian officials have identified as Najib.
In view of the situation, Najib tried to squash the scandal by sacking his deputy prime minister, replacing his attorney general, suspending newspapers and blocking websites.
One of the people affected by the crackdown is Bersih chairwoman, Maria Chin Abdullah, who was taken into custody on the eve of the march under Malaysia's Security Offences (Special Measures) Act, or SOSMA, her lawyers said on Saturday. This law was introduced in 2012 to protect the country from security and extremist threats.
In his blog, Zaid Ibrahim, a former minister and member of the United Malays National Organisation), wrote today on his blog that Chin “is a good and fearless organiser and she inspires ordinary Malaysians to be brave. She has been successful and that’s why the cowards have placed her in solitary confinement. We must do whatever we can to help her cause, which is also ours!”
Addressing those who say that Bersih achieved nothing, he added that “If that were true then Maria Chin would not have been detained.”