Ma­hathir joins calls to oust ‘thief’ Na­jib

The Myanmar Times - - World -

FOR­MER Malaysian leader Ma­hathir Mo­hamad called for a sus­tained push to top­ple scan­dal-plagued Prime Min­is­ter Na­jib Razak as thou­sands ral­lied to de­mand the pre­mier’s res­ig­na­tion over the 1MDB cor­rup­tion saga.

Malaysians clad in the yel­low of the re­formist Ber­sih cam­paign flooded Kuala Lumpur on Novem­ber 19 for the sec­ond time in 15 months to vent anger over al­le­ga­tions that bil­lions of dol­lars were looted from state in­vest­ment fund 1MDB, Mr Na­jib’s brain­child.

Speak­ing to a crowd of at least 20,000 un­der the shadow of the cap­i­tal’s gi­ant Petronas Tow­ers twin sky­scrapers, Mr Ma­hathir, 91, ac­cused Mr Na­jib of steal­ing public money and said Malaysia was “con­trolled by thieves”.

“Time has come for us to top­ple this cruel regime. Na­jib is no longer suit­able to be prime min­is­ter. He is abus­ing the law,” Mr Ma­hathir said.

Malaysia has been seized since last year by the 1MDB scan­dal, which has sparked in­ves­ti­ga­tions in sev­eral coun­tries. Mr Na­jib, 63, and 1MDB deny any wrong­do­ing.

But the US Jus­tice Depart­ment – which has filed law­suits to seize as­sets it says were pur­chased with stolen 1MDB money – says the fund was pil­laged in an au­da­cious cam­paign of fraud and theft that in­volved an un­named top Malaysian of­fi­cial. A Malaysian cabi­net of­fi­cial has since ad­mit­ted that in­di­vid­ual was the prime min­is­ter.

Mr Na­jib last year abruptly shut down Malaysian in­ves­ti­ga­tions into 1MDB, fired the at­tor­ney gen­eral and purged rul­ing-party crit­ics.

Few ex­pect him to be top­pled any time soon.

Mr Na­jib has con­demned Ber­sih as an op­po­si­tion plot “to un­seat a demo­crat­i­cally-elected gov­ern­ment”.

Ten­sions in the Mus­lim-ma­jor­ity coun­try rose in the rally’s run-up due to threats by the “Red Shirts”, eth­nicMalay right­ists who sup­port Mr Na­jib, to dis­rupt the demon­stra­tion, but no clashes were re­ported.

Po­lice ar­rested Ber­sih leader Maria Chin Ab­dul­lah and sev­eral other fig­ures on Novem­ber 18 in an ap­par­ent bid to un­der­cut the protest.

Amnesty In­ter­na­tional called the ar­rests “the lat­est in a se­ries of crude and heavy-handed at­tempts” to si­lence dissent.

De­fy­ing the gov­ern­ment pres­sure, rivers of yel­low-wear­ing demon­stra­tors flowed down­town, blow­ing vu­vuze­las, bran­dish­ing car­i­ca­tures of Mr Na­jib and other 1MDB fig­ures, and chant­ing “Catch the Thief-inChief!”

Ber­sih, which means “clean” in Malay, is an al­liance of scores of NGOs and civil-so­ci­ety groups that staged sev­eral protests over the years for elec­toral re­form, but has now shifted fo­cus to 1MDB.

1MDB has fu­elled gloom among pro­gres­sives and re­form ad­vo­cates who had al­ready ac­cused Mr Na­jib of reneg­ing on ear­lier prom­ises to elim­i­nate graft and end the 59-year-old rul­ing coali­tion’s au­thor­i­tar­ian re­pres­sive ten­den­cies.

Crit­ics say Mr Na­jib is lurch­ing

to­ward au­toc­racy and tram­pling rule of law to sti­fle the scan­dal as elec­tions loom within 18 months.

Mr Ma­hathir’s par­tic­i­pa­tion in Ber­sih’s 1MDB demon­stra­tions – he also showed up last year – un­der­lines how the scan­dal has up­ended Malaysian pol­i­tics.

Mr Ma­hathir ruled with a firm grip dur­ing his own 1981-2003 ten­ure, cham­pi­oning the rul­ing United Malays Na­tional Or­gan­i­sa­tion (UMNO).

But he has quit UMNO in dis­gust over 1MDB and formed a new op­po­si­tion party.

He sanc­tioned fur­ther protests against Mr Na­jib, de­spite deal­ing harshly with demon­stra­tors while he was in power.

“We should not be afraid to show our op­po­si­tion to the gov­ern­ment,” Mr Ma­hathir, wear­ing a yel­low Ber­sih shirt, told the crowd. –

For­mer Malaysian prime min­is­ter Ma­hath min­is­ter Muhyid­din Yassin (right) wave as Na­jib Razak for al­leged cor­rup­tion in Kua

Photo: AFP

hir Mo­hamad (cen­tre), his son Mukhriz Ma­hathir (left) and for­mer deputy prime s they ar­rive to at­tend a mass rally call­ing for the res­ig­na­tion of Prime Min­is­ter ala Lumpur on Novem­ber 19.

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