Saturday, November 19, 2016

1000s take to streets in Malaysia for anti gov't rally demand prime minister step down

Thousands of people took to the streets of Malaysia's capital on Saturday to demand elections and that Prime Minister Najib Razak step down over alleged involvement in a multi-billion dollar scandal.

Protesters dressed in the yellow shirts of the anti-government movement marched through central Kuala Lumpur until police stopped them from entering Merdeka (Independence) Square.

The capital's city hall had earlier prohibited the use of the square for the Bersih 5 rally and a counter-rally held by rival pro-government Red Shirt protesters.

Instead, the Bersih rally culminated in a large gathering in front of Kuala Lumpur's landmark Petronas Twin Towers.

After a final round of speeches by opposition politicians and activists a halt was called at around 5.45 p.m. (0945GMT).

The head of the electoral reform group that organized the rally -- Bersih -- was unable to take part after being arrested Friday with several other supporters.

The Star online reported Saturday that Chair Maria Chin Abdullah and Secretariat Manager Mandeep Singh had remained in custody for the duration of the rally along with more than a dozen other people from both the Red Shirts and Bersih group.

Earlier this week, Malaysia's longest serving premier rallied for Bersih 5.

A promotional video -- uploaded Wednesday -- was Mahatir Mohamad's most vocal message of support for Bersih -- "clean" in Malay -- since he parted ways with Razak and his United Malays National Organization (UMNO) in February.

UMNO -- which Razak leads -- is a major political party in the National Alliance that has ruled Malaysia since independence in 1957.

Bersih is demanding institutional reforms in the country and the resignation of Razak, who the movement demands take responsibility for a corruption scandal allegedly involving indebted state wealth fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

The rally was a continuation of Bersih 4, believed to have attracted more than 200,000 protesters in August last year amid anger over a $681 million “political donation” allegedly sent by Middle East royals to Razak’s personal bank accounts.

By P Prem Kumar KUALA LUMPUR Anadolu Agency


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