Huge Malaysia rally for Najib's resignation enters 2nd day

Huge Malaysia rally for Najib
# 30 August 2015 04:52 (UTC +04:00)

Baku-APA. Protesters demanding the resignation of Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak over a financial scandal remained on the streets of the capital Sunday, after the first day of the massive rally passed peacefully despite police warnings that the gathering was illegal, APA reports quoting Associated Press.

The crowds flooded the streets wearing yellow shirts of the Bersih movement — the coalition for clean and fair elections — even after authorities blocked the organizer's website and banned yellow attire and the group's logo in a bid to deter the rallies, which were also held in other Malaysian cities.

Former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who has been spearheading calls for Najib's resignation, added momentum to the rally when he made a surprise brief appearance late Saturday with his wife to loud cheers from the crowd, and telling protesters to "carry on."

Najib has been fighting for political survival after leaked documents in July showed he received some $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.

He slammed the weekend protests for tarnishing Malaysia's image.

"Those who wear this yellow attire ... they want to discredit our good name, scribble black coal on Malaysia's face to the outside world," Najib was quoted as saying by national news agency Bernama.

Police estimated Saturday's crowd at 25,000, while Bersih says 200,000 participated at its peak. The rally was scheduled to last until midnight Sunday.

"Najib cannot become prime minister. He has no credibility," said protester Abdul Wahid.

Another protester, Mooi Lai, said he came because his 82-year-old father had been disenfranchised since authorities refused to issue him an ID card for 20 years.

Protesters in yellow Bersih T-shirts and headbands converged at five locations and marched to areas surrounding the landmark Independence Square, where celebrations to mark Malaysia's 58th National Day will be held Monday.

Scores of police sealed off roads leading to the square, which authorities have said is off-limits to protesters. Previous two Bersih rallies, in 2011 and 2012, were dispersed by police using tear gas and water cannons.

Some activists carried canvas bags with the words "My Prime Minister Embarrasses Me." Some held placards saying "We will not be silenced," while others chanted "Bersih" and waved Malaysian flags.

In one area near the square, a comedian entertaining the crowd poked fun at Najib. Dressed up as an Arab, he pretended to hand over a multi-billion-ringgit check as a donation to a rally participant.

"Stop treating us like fools, Mr. prime minister," said businessman Tony Wong. "We deserve to know the truth about 1MDB. Where has the money gone to?"

A nation of 30 million, Malaysia is predominantly Malay Muslim with significant Chinese and Indian minorities. Its ambitions to rise from a middle income to a developed nation this decade have been stymied by slow-paced reforms and Najib's increasing authoritarianism.

Concerns over the political scandal partly contributed to the Malaysian currency plunging to a 17-year low earlier this month.

1MDB, set up by Najib in 2009 to develop new industries, has accumulated 42 billion ringgit ($10.1 billion) in debt after its energy ventures abroad faltered.

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.

Apart from Najib's resignation, the demands being sought are institutional reforms that will make the government more transparent and accountable.