20 Nov 2016

Tens Of Thousands Rally To End Najib Razak Kleptocracy

From SMH
Tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets of the Malaysian capital on Saturday, defying a police ban and crackdown on pro-democracy activists, to demand the resignation of scandal-hit Prime Minister Najib Razak.

Ninety-one-year-old former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad, one of Mr Najib's fiercest critics, told a sea of protesters clad in yellow that it is time to topple the government.
"We are no longer a democracy, we are known as a kleptocracy – a nation run by thieves," he said.

The on-line portal Malaysiakini estimated that more than 40,000 protesters marched in the rally organised by Bersih, a coalition of almost 100 groups campaigning for electoral reform and against corruption amid allegations that a state fund embezzled billions of dollars in the country's biggest financial scandal.

Mr Najib set-up 1Malaysia Development Berhad, known as 1MDB, and oversaw the fund through chairmanship of an advisory committee.

Maria Chin Abdullah, the leader of Bersih, told Fairfax Media before being arrested on Friday she feared a counter pro-government "red shirt" group would disrupt the protest.
"We have security but it's insufficient when faced against gangsters," she said.

But Jamal Yunos, a red-shirt leader, was also arrested hours before the protest after earlier warning "anything can happen, including violence."
He has also made bizarre claims against Bersih, including that the coalition had been infiltrated by Islamic State terrorists.
The rival groups heckled each other but there were no serious clashes. Malaysiakini estimated the number at red-shirts who also took to the streets at around 4,000.

Ms Chin and 10 opposition figures and student leaders were arrested after Mr Najib uploaded a speech on his website declaring the Bersih protesters "a tool of the opposition".
Police banned Bersih supporters from taking to the streets despite Ms Chin declaring they would comply with rules of the Peaceful Assembly Act.
As investigations continue in at least five countries into 1MDB Mr Najib's government has become increasingly authoritarian. A Malaysian court last week sentenced an outspoken member of Malaysia's parliament to 18 months in prison for publicly disclosing information relating to the scandal.

The conviction of Rafizi Ramli was slammed by human rights groups who said Malaysians have a right to know about corruption.
"These arrests are the latest in a series of crude and heavy-handed attempts to intimidate Malaysian civil society activists and other human rights defenders," said Amnesty International's Josef Benedict.

Mr Najib, 62, has been under fire since July last year when the Wall Street Journal published documents showing that almost US$700 million turned up in his private bank accounts. He denies any wrongdoing.

The US Justice Department has said it is investigating US$1 billion of assets purchased in the US with funds that were allegedly embezzled from 1MDB. The department said a figure it called "Malaysian official 1" knowingly received huge sums from 1MDB.
A Malaysian cabinet official has since confirmed that official was Mr Najib.

However as Malaysia's biggest financial scandal unfolded Mr Najib has shut down his country's investigations into the fund, removed critics from government, closed several media outlets and enacted tough security laws in a sweeping crackdown that analysts say has endangered an already fragile democracy.
Mr Najib, who has had close ties to successive Australian governments, has in the meantime shored up support in his party, the long-ruling United Malays National Organisation, where officials have for decades benefited from money politics.

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