Malaysians gear up for ral­lies urg­ing Na­jib to quit


Malaysian ac­tivists are putting more pres­sure on em­bat­tled Prime Min­is­ter Na­jib Razak to re­sign with ma­jor street ral­lies this week­end fol­low­ing al­le­ga­tions of sus­pi­cious money trans­fers into his ac­counts.

Na­jib has been fight­ing for po­lit­i­cal sur­vival af­ter leaked doc­u­ments in July showed he re­ceived some US$700 mil­lion in his pri­vate ac­counts from en­ti­ties linked to in­debted state fund 1MDB. He later said the money was a do­na­tion from the Mid­dle East, fired his crit­i­cal deputy and four other Cab­i­net mem­bers as well as the at­tor­ney gen­eral in­ves­ti­gat­ing him.

Po­lice have de­clared the rally, which starts Satur­day and ends Sun­day, illegal be­cause protesters have no per­mis­sion to use the In­de­pen­dence Square, a na­tional land­mark.

The gov­ern­ment blocked the web­site of Ber­sih, the coali­tion for clean and fair elec­tions that is or­ga­niz­ing the ral­lies, and the army said it will in­ter­vene if a state of emer­gency is de­clared.

Ac­tivist Maria Chin, the head of Ber­sih, which means “clean” in Malay, said that Na­jib should re­sign. More im­por­tantly, she said the po­lit­i­cal sys­tem and state in­sti­tu­tions, which have been dom­i­nated by the rul­ing Na­tional Front for decades, must be re­formed to be more trans­par­ent and ac­count­able.

“Many peo­ple have lost con­fi­dence in Na­jib. The Ber­sih 4 rally will show a vote of no con­fi­dence against Na­jib by the peo­ple,” Chin said.

She said that Ber­sih ex­pects more than 250,000 peo­ple to at­tend the rally. It will go on un­til mid­night Sun­day, the eve of Malaysia’s 58th Na­tional Day mark- ing in­de­pen­dence from Bri­tain.

This is the fourth rally or­ga­nized by Ber­sih, and the third one since Na­jib took power in 2009. Tens of thou­sands of peo­ple turned up for the last two ral­lies in 2011 and 2012, which were dis­persed by author­i­ties us­ing tear gas and wa­ter cannon.

Chin said the protesters will con­verge at five dif­fer­ent lo­ca­tions in Kuala Lumpur be­fore march­ing to the In­de­pen­dence Square, and will gather around it af­ter author­i­ties warned that the square is of­flim­its due to prepa­ra­tions for Na­tional Day cel­e­bra­tions.

Ral­lies will also be held si­mul­ta­ne­ously in Kuch­ing in Sarawak state and Kota Kinabalu in Sabah state, both on Bor­neo is­land.

Deputy Home Min­is­ter Nur Ja­zlan Mo­hamed said Fri­day that po­lice will mon­i­tor and fa­cil­i­tate traf­fic, but warned of ac­tion if it turns vi­o­lent or protesters break the law. He said that protesters should show their un­hap­pi­ness with the gov­ern­ment at the bal­lot box, not in the streets.

“If they no longer trust the Na­tional Front gov­ern­ment, they should wait till the next gen­eral elec­tions,” due in 2018, he said.

Sup­port for Na­jib’s Na­tional Front has eroded in the last two gen­eral elec­tions. It won in 2013, but lost the pop­u­lar vote for the first time to an op­po­si­tion al­liance.

Con­cerns over the scan­dal and the 1MDB state fund, which is mired in debts of 42 bil­lion ring­git (US$10 bil­lion) since it was set up six years ago, con­trib­uted to the Malaysian cur­rency plung­ing to a 17-year low, be­yond 4 ring­git to the dol­lar, ear­lier this month.

“Ber­sih’s de­mands have struck a chord with those who want to change a failed po­lit­i­cal sys­tem and re­form an ail­ing econ­omy,” Chin said.

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