Reforms group Bersih to call on Malaysians to protest against PM Najib's leadership

Protesters gathering around Dataran Merdeka in Kuala Lumpur at a Bersih rally in August 2015 calling for Prime Minister Najib Razak’s resignation and for a clean government.
Protesters gathering around Dataran Merdeka in Kuala Lumpur at a Bersih rally in August 2015 calling for Prime Minister Najib Razak’s resignation and for a clean government. PHOTO: ST FILE

PETALING JAYA, Selangor - Reforms group Bersih has declared that it will call on Malaysians to take to the streets, the second such protest against Prime Minister Najib Razak's leadership after the August 2015 rallies that saw close to 100,000 protesters bringing Kuala Lumpur to a standstill.

"Not protesting is not an option," Bersih chief Maria Chin Abdullah told a press conference on Wednesday (Aug 3).

"They (the Prime Minister and Cabinet) have allowed the 1MDB scandal to escalate... without any compulsion for accountability. If they continue with their inaction, the PM and his Cabinet must resign," said Ms Abdullah, who heads the coalition of 94 civil society bodies.

The date and details of the Bersih 5 rally "will be announced in due course", she added.

Inspector-General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar said on Wednesday that Bersih will be given approval to organise a rally as long as it adheres to the Peaceful Assembly Act. 

Bersih's decision comes after the US Department of Justice (DOJ) said on July 20 that it had filed civil claims to seize more than US$1 billion (S$1.34 billion) in assets allegedly bought with money siphoned out of 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), the troubled state investor controlled by Datuk Seri Najib.

The civil action named Mr Najib's stepson Riza Aziz and businessman Low Taek Jho, a former Najib confidant, as having laundered money out of 1MDB, with US$3.5 billion said to have been siphoned from taxpayers.

The Department of Justice also said an unnamed "Malaysian Official 1" received millions diverted from the fund.

Media reports in July last year said US$681 million linked to 1MDB had been found in Mr Najib's personal accounts. But the Prime Minister maintained that the money was a political donation from the Saudi royal family.

Mr Najib was cleared of any wrongdoing early this year by Attorney-General Apandi Ali.

The Prime Minister has said the US lawsuits were "a civil action... limited to the names mentioned in the DOJ report".

shannont@sph.com.sg