Organisers face possible charges
THOUSANDS of Malaysian demonstrators turned central Kuala Lumpur yellow for a second straight day yesterday with a rally demanding Prime Minister Najib Razak's resignation over the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) corruption scandal, as the government threatened action against organisers.
The two-day rally, one of Malaysia's largest in years, has been mostly incident-free even though police declared it illegal, blocked the organisers' website and banned their official bright yellow T-shirt and logo, Agence France-Presse reported.
Thousands awoke from a night camping out near the Independence Square and were soon joined by thousands more as a carnival-like mix of speeches, singalongs, prayer and selfie-taking resumed.
According to the organisers - electoral-reform activist group Bersih - there were 300,000 at the rally yesterday. Bersih said 200,000 turned out on Saturday, while the police put the number at 29,000.
"I am here to demand transparency. I want to protect the rights of my children. This country is heading for bankruptcy, and we must stop Mr Najib and topple the corrupt regime," said Mustapha Abdul Jalil, a 40-year-old businessman.
Yesterday, Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi warned organisers that they face possible charges under assembly, sedition and other laws.
Jamal Yunos, a divisional chief of Mr Najib's ruling United Malays National Organisation (Umno) party, said one million "red shirt" government supporters would stage a rally in Kuala Lumpur on Oct 10 as a riposte to the Bersih protests, reported Reuters.
At an event yesterday, Mr Najib said: "There might have been 20,000 people at the rally, as reported by some media, but I am sure only 20,000 are a little dissatisfied. The rest of the Malaysian population are with the government."
The Prime Minister is under fire after the Wall Street Journal last month published "authentic" documents showing nearly US$700 million (S$986 million) had been deposited into his personal bank accounts beginning in 2013 through 1MDB-linked firms.
Bersih protesters were energised by appearances on both days by 90-year-old former premier Mahathir Mohamad.
Still an Umno heavyweight, Dr Mahathir surprised some with his attendance, given that he had been tough on dissent during his 1981-2003 rule.
He told reporters that street demonstrations were the only way to bring down the "corrupt" Mr Najib now, citing the example of former Philippine president Ferdinand Marcos, who was ousted from office in 1986 by "people's power", reported the news website The Malaysian Insider.
"We just want to oust Mr Najib only, BN (Barisan Nasional) must remain," he said, referring to the Umno-led coalition government.
He also said that during his reign, street demonstrations were not necessary as the government acted on complaints.
He added that he did not care about reform groups set up by Mr Najib as many Umno leaders had already been bought off by the Prime Minister.
Umno vice-president Hishammuddin Hussein said Dr Mahathir had crossed the line by attending the anti-government protest, the New Straits Times reported.