Thousands march in Malaysia calling for controversial PM to step

Thousands of anti-government protesters have marched in Malaysia’s capital demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Najib Razak over his alleged involvement in a multi-billion dollar misappropriation scandal.

Clad in yellow shirts and unfazed by arrests of activists and opposition leaders just hours before the rally, protesters marched from various spots towards the heart of Kuala Lumpur amid tight security on Saturday.

The mood among those gathered was festive, with drums and vuvuzelas heard along with speeches, songs and chants by participants calling for a clean Malaysia and people power.

The demonstration is unlikely to shake Najib, who has denied wrongdoing and weathered the crisis, consolidating power by cracking down on dissenters and curbing media groups and activists.

The head of pro-democracy group Bersih – the organisers of Saturday’s rally – was arrested on Friday, along with several other supporters of the demonstration, including opposition leaders and student activists.

Police have said the Bersih rally is illegal.

“We are not here to bring down the country. We love this country! We are not here to tear down the government, we’re here to strengthen it,” Bersih deputy chair Shahrul Aman Shaari told the crowds gathered at the National Mosque.

Another Bersih leader Hishamuddin Rais was arrested on Saturday at the protest area, with police also issuing warnings to other participants. State news agency Bernama said about 7,000 policemen will be on duty near the protest area.

“Our country is being governed by clowns and crooks. So I’m here to protest against our prime minister,” said artist Fahmi Reza, holding a poster of a clown-faced Najib.

In a speech uploaded on his website on Friday, Najib said the protesters were “a tool of the opposition”.

“Their movement is deceitful. It is clear that these street protests are in fact the opposition disguised as an independent NGO working to unseat a democratically elected government,” said Najib, who is in Peru to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit.

Azalina Othman Said, a minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, on Saturday said it was unlawful for any party to try to unseat a democratically-elected government via street protests.

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