Bersih protesters a disgruntled few: Najib

Umno says 1 million govt supporters will hold rally in October, trumping Bersih turnout

Yellow-clad protesters turned out in force for a second day yesterday, with rally organiser Bersih expecting the crowd to grow to 300,000 and Prime Minister Najib Razak criticising the rally as unpatriotic.

"They can gather 20,000 people at the rally but these are the disgruntled few. The majority of Malaysians who were not at the rally supported the government," Datuk Seri Najib said yesterday.

One million government supporters will hold a rally in October that will trump the Bersih-led protest, an Umno division leader in Selangor said yesterday.

Human rights advocate Ambiga Sreenevasan, responding to Mr Najib's criticism and claim that the government could mobilise a larger crowd, said: "Of course they have the money and power to assemble any number of people."

"The true test," she told Malaysiakini, "is doing it without money and power, and relying entirely on the goodwill of the people. And there lies the strength of Bersih."

As estimates of the size of the turnout grew, Bersih chief Maria Chin Abdullah said she expected 300,000 people by the time the 34-hour rally ended at midnight.

"I think we can have 300,000," she told reporters after meeting city police chief Tajuddin Md Isa, who confirmed that the Merdeka countdown concert has been moved from Merdeka Square to Bukit Jalil National Stadium.

Former premier Mahathir Mohamad visited protesters at Central Market yesterday after a surprise visit at Merdeka Square on Saturday night. Reiterating his desire for Mr Najib to step down, Tun Dr Mahathir accused him of abusing his power to remain in office.

"He knows when he has no power, he may be made to face the court. The court may find him guilty and he may have to go to jail," Dr Mahathir was quoted as saying.

"We just want to oust Najib only, BN (Barisan Nasional) must remain," he told reporters.

He also called on Malaysians to get their MPs to support a no-confidence vote against Mr Najib if such a motion is tabled at the next parliamentary session in October.

There have been calls for Mr Najib to resign over debt-laden state investor 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) and over US$700 million (S$980 million) that was deposited into his personal bank accounts. The government has said the money was a political donation from Middle Eastern sources.

Protesters who spoke to The Straits Times expressed their anger over Mr Najib's alleged role in the 1MDB controversy. He chairs its board of advisers.

One of them, who gave his name only as Joe, said Mr Najib must answer allegations that the US$700 million came from state funds. The controversy has caused people to lose confidence, said the 29-year- old businessman.

• Additional reporting by Shannon Teoh


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 31, 2015, with the headline 'Bersih protesters a disgruntled few: Najib'. Print Edition | Subscribe