Malaysian Bersih protests against PM in second day

Bersih protests demanding PM Razak’s resignation enter second day, governing party calls for responsive rally

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Supporters of Bersih listening during a rally near Dataran Merdeka, Kuala Lumpur August 30, 2015.

The protests in Kuala Lumpur that started with the call of the NGO, the Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections, shortly Bersih, meaning clean in Malay, asking Prime Minister Najib Razak’s resignation enter second day.

Thousands of people joined the meeting on Saturday; Bersih said 200,000 people participated while the police stated the figure as 29,000. Hundreds spent the night on the street in central Kuala Lumpur.

The anger and outrage started in the country shortly after the revelation of documents by the Wall street Journal, showing that Razak funneled some $700 million into his personal accounts from entities connected to indebted state fund, 1 Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

Following Bersih's request for a permit to protest, Malaysian police declared that the protests are illegal, blocking the Bersih website and banning the wearing of yellow t-shirts with the movement’s logo.

The first day of the protests in the capital passed peacefully, but 12 people were arrested due to wearing the yellow shirts in the city of Malacca where there was a rally with limited participation as well as some other cities of Malaysia. State news agency then later said they were released.

Razak denies all allegations on corruption, saying that the money was accepted as a donation from unidentified Middle Eastern sources.

Jamal Yunos, a divisional chief of the governing United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), said on Sunday that they will have a rally with 1 million government supporters wearing red t-shirts in Kuala Lumpur on Oct. 10 as a riposte to the weekend protests.

"This shows the solidarity of Malaysians, that Najib still has the majority support," he said.

Former PM Mahathir Mohamad and his wife Siti Hasmah
after speaking to the media in Kuala Lumpur, August 30, 2015

The former PM Mahathir Mohamad from Razak’s party UMNO and the longest serving leader of the country, had made a short appearance in the protest on Saturday which gave the protesters a joy.

He was Razak’s patron once and now his biggest critic.

Mohamad said to the media that getting back to the old system can be achieved by “removing this prime minister," adding "And to remove him, the people must show people's power. The people as a whole do not want this kind of corrupt leader" before showing up in the rally again.

The protests are not seen as a big threat to Razak by analysts, for lacking a leader or the support of Malays.

Protesters mainly consist of urban people coming from Chinese or Indian background.

"The rally will register as a big protest. But in terms of actual change, I don't think anything will happen immediately," said a chief executive of the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs, Wan Saiful Wan Jan.

Political analyst Ibrahim Suffian says the government “feel[s] safe because it has not really affected the rural Malay segment, their bedrock support."



TRTWorld and agencies