Malaysian police yesterday began a crackdown on last weekend's mammoth rally calling for Prime Minister Najib Razak to resign, saying they will summon Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad for questioning over comments he made at the protest against the Premier.
The influential former prime minister had attended both days of the rally, Saturday and Sunday. On the second day, he accused Datuk Seri Najib of bribing officials of his party Umno to stay in power.
Dr Mahathir had also for the past several months called for Mr Najib to resign over alleged financial irregularities at state investor 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), whose advisory board the Prime Minister heads.
Inspector-General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar said the police would decide on the legal repercussions after questioning Dr Mahathir.
"We will investigate everyone... including Tun Mahathir. We will call him in for questioning. He had given a speech and made an accusation. We want to know where he got all this information," he told reporters yesterday.
QUESTIONED BY POLICE
They asked us about the rally itself, how we managed it, how we dispersed the people at the end of the rally and how we organised our volunteers. We, however, exercised our rights not to answer many of the questions, including about the donation. We will answer them in court if we are charged.
BERSIH CHAIRMAN MARIA CHIN ABDULLAH
"Among the accusations made were that Umno division chiefs had been bribed. So we want more information on this," he said, adding: "We want to know the meaning (of what he said) and information he obtained for his statement."
However, Dr Mahathir is overseas and is expected back only on Sept 9, his aide said.
The police were reacting to a police report lodged against Dr Mahathir over the remarks he made to the media while attending the rally.
It appears that his visits to the rally organised by electoral reform group Bersih had incurred the ire of the Umno leadership.
On Sunday, Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said Dr Mahathir had crossed the line by attending the rally and Umno mouthpiece Utusan Malaysia called his attendance "unwarranted".
Police yesterday also questioned seven organisers on the planning and execution of the rally, as well as the RM2.4 million (S$810,000) in public donations that they had received.
"They asked us about the rally itself, how we managed it, how we dispersed the people at the end of the rally and how we organised our volunteers," Bersih chairman Maria Chin Abdullah told reporters yesterday. "We, however, exercised our rights not to answer many of the questions, including about the donation. We will answer them in court if we are charged."
Ms Maria was questioned along with Bersih secretariat members - Mr Sarajun Hoda Abdul Hassan, Ms Masjaliza Hamzah, Ms Farhana Abdul Halim, Ms Fadiah Nadwa Fikri, Mr Mandeep Singh and Mr Adam Adli Abdul Halim - for 21/2 hours.
They were accompanied by 10 lawyers.
The group is being investigated for concealing a design to commit an offence, attempting to commit activity detrimental to parliamentary democracy and unlawful assembly, which are charges under Sections 120, 124C and 141 of the Penal Code.
Bersih ended its 34-hour rally - which the Kuala Lumpur authorities had said was illegal - on Sunday evening. It claimed that the protest on the second night pulled in more than 500,000 people.
Federal minister Paul Low yesterday defended the police probe of Bersih and Dr Mahathir, stressing that it was due to the country's obsession with maintaining peace.
"In Malaysia, we have a strong obsession to make sure we have peace and stability in this country because we've got bad experience.
"That is our perception, our mindset when we see disruption of peace," said the minister in charge of governance, integrity and human rights.