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Malaysians plan rally against prime minister

17 November 2016 15:56

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Tens of thousands of people are set to stage an anti-government rally in the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lampur, over the weekend to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Najib Razak over a financial scandal.

The protest rally, which is scheduled for Saturday, is expected to gather some 60,000 pro-democracy activists — by police estimates — in Kuala Lumpur from among Najib’s critics.

The Malaysian premier is under criticism over a graft scandal that involves 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), a state fund set up by him.

The pro-democracy group of Bersih, which means “clean” in Malaysian, is to organize the rally despite a police ban and fears of clashes with pro-government groups.

“We are taking to the street because there is something rotten in the state of Malaysia. Poor governance and a lack of accountability have resulted in grand corruption in 1MDB,” said Bersih chairwoman Maria Chin.

“People have a right to peaceful assembly… We are protesting because keeping silent on corruption and abuse of power is not an option,” she added.

Police have warned they would arrest the participants in the Saturday rally.

Najib has dismissed calls to step down.

“You cannot indulge in any kind of physical clash at all… and that’s not the culture that we will want to be accepted as our way of life in Malaysia,” he said, adding the public should wait for the next election in 2018.

The scandal erupted after a report by The Wall Street Journal last year, prompting the US Justice Department to confiscate more than $1 billion in assets it says were purchased with money stolen from the 1MDB.

The magazine also said in early July that about $700 million had been transferred to Najib’s private accounts before the 2013 general elections.

Malaysian judiciary authorities have cleared him of any criminal wrongdoing in the case, saying the money was from donations from the Saudi royal family.

Critics have dismissed the ruling, arguing that the transfer of personal donations did not rule out corruption.

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said in April that the $681 million Riyadh offered to the Malaysian premier was a “genuine donation with nothing expected in return.”

Najib returned from a four-day visit to Saudi Arabia back in March.

The Malaysian premier came into office in 2009 promising a government free of corruption and a more relaxed rule.

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