Malaysia PM criticises upcoming demonstration
Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak on Friday criticised organisers of a weekend protest demanding his ouster, saying the timing and venue of the demonstration would clash with independence day parade rehearsals.
“If you want to gather and demonstrate, do not trigger a provocation,” Najib said in a statement posted on his blog.
“Whatever the disagreements or misunderstandings between us, national day should not be a stage of political disputes.”
The former British colony will be celebrating its 58th anniversary of self-rule next Monday with a parade at a historic field in the capital called Independence Square, with rehearsals taking place this weekend.
Bersih, Malaysia’s leading alliance of independent NGOs, rights groups and reform advocates, vows to bring out tens of thousands of people in the capital Kuala Lumpur and two other cities on Saturday and Sunday.
In his first remarks over the protests, Najib also implied that the clash in timing and the venue of the protests would be disrespectful to Malaysia’s national heroes who had fought for independence.
Malaysians have been transfixed by months of allegations that hundreds of millions of dollars disappeared from deals involving heavily indebted state investment company 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), which Najib launched in 2009.
On July 2, the Wall Street Journal reported that nearly $700 million was deposited into Najib’s personal bank accounts beginning in early 2013.
Najib initially rejected the Journal’s report, and both he and 1MDB vehemently deny any wrongdoing.
Cabinet ministers say the money transfers were “political donations” from unidentified Middle Eastern sources, and that there was nothing improper. No further details have been given.
The accounts have since been closed and the whereabouts of the money is unknown.
The demonstration could expose the breadth of public anger over Malaysia’s biggest political scandal in memory.
Previous rallies by Bersih for electoral reform have ended in clashes with police, most recently in 2012.