Malaysian civil society, opposition leaders call for caretaker govt, fresh elections amid 1MDB saga

Opposition members of Malaysia's Parliament, including opposition leader Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, meeting in the foyer of the Parliament building in Kuala Lumpur on July 7, 2015, after they were told that the room they had booked was not available. Spe
Opposition members of Malaysia's Parliament, including opposition leader Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, meeting in the foyer of the Parliament building in Kuala Lumpur on July 7, 2015, after they were told that the room they had booked was not available. Speaking is Democratic Action Party secretary-general and Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng.ST PHOTO: SHANNON TEOH
Malaysian opposition leader Wan Azizah, the wife of jailed opposition icon Anwar Ibrahim, sitting with members of the opposition at the corridor of Parliament house in Kuala Lumpur on July 7, 2015, following allegations that a probe into a Malaysian
Malaysian opposition leader Wan Azizah, the wife of jailed opposition icon Anwar Ibrahim, sitting with members of the opposition at the corridor of Parliament house in Kuala Lumpur on July 7, 2015, following allegations that a probe into a Malaysian state-controlled investment fund found nearly US$700 million was transferred into Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak's personal bank accounts. Six bank accounts have been frozen, a special task force said July 7, as it deepens its probe into a state-owned investment fund that had found hundreds of millions of dollars were transferred to the prime minister's personal bank accounts. -- PHOTO: AFPPHOTO: AFP

CIVIL society and opposition leaders have called for a caretaker government and fresh elections next year, following claims that nearly US$700 million (S$943 million) linked to debt-ridden 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) was deposited into Prime Minister Najib Razak's personal accounts just prior to the May 5, 2013 general election.

In a report last Friday, the Wall Street Journal alleged that the money was deposited via a Swiss bank, Falcon Private Bank, two months before the polls.

While Datuk Seri Najib, who is 1MDB's chief adviser, has denied using state funds for "personal gain", he has not denied the WSJ claims outright, leading to speculation that the money was used to help his Umno-led Barisan Nasional (BN) in the tightly contested election, which it narrowly won.

"This money is linked to the last general election. So we must have a new election as soon as possible. We want a clean election to appoint a clean government," Democratic Action Party secretary-general Lim Guan Eng said at an urgent meeting in Parliament called by opposition parties on Tuesday.

Lawyer and human rights activist Ambiga Sreenevasan also told the meeting that BN must hand over power to a caretaker government that will "clean up the system" and that fresh elections must be held one year later.

The reason is that "what we know now raises questions over the credibility of elections", added Datuk Ambida, who led electoral reform group Bersih to two massive street rallies in 2011 and 2012 before stepping down as co-chairman.

She also said Mr Najib should take leave to allow investigators to work without interference so "he will have a fair chance to clear his name".

Opposition MPs and representatives of non-governmental organisations had to hold their meeting in an open courtyard in front of the Parliament building after being told that the room they had booked was used by the Youth and Sports Ministry.

Opposition Parti Keadilan Rakyat whip Johari Abdul told reporters the room was not occupied, and accused the government of undermining parliamentary independence.

Mr Lim, who is also Penang Chief Minister, vowed to prevent 1MDB from disposing of its land banks in the state after calling for the troubled state investment agency's assets to be frozen.

"I will look into whether the state government can freeze the land deals in Penang," he said, referring to 1MDB's proposed land sales in Air Itam and Pulau Indah.

He added this was possible as parties interested in buying the land would have to get approval from the state government.