Group pushing for Najib's resignation over 1MDB saga

Malaysia's PM Najib Razak at the 19th Annual Leaders Consultation at Nurul Iman Palace in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei, on Aug 11, 2015.
Malaysia's PM Najib Razak at the 19th Annual Leaders Consultation at Nurul Iman Palace in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei, on Aug 11, 2015.PHOTO: REUTERS

What is Bersih?

Bersih, which means "clean" in Malay, refers to the Coalition of Free and Fair Elections.

It is a civil society movement consisting of 84 non-governmental organisations calling for a thorough reform of Malaysia's electoral process. It is led by Ms Maria Chin Abdullah from the Women's Development Collective, who took over from former Bar Council president S. Ambiga.

Bersih was launched in November 2006 as a political party-driven movement with members consisting of opposition leaders and civil society representatives. In April 2010, it rebranded itself as Bersih 2.0, a non-partisan movement free from political influences.

What are its demands?

Bersih has eight demands. These include updating the electoral roll to remove "phantom voters" and reforming postal voting to allow not only Malaysians living abroad to vote, but also those in the country who cannot vote in their constituencies on Polling Day. The group also demands the use of indelible ink to prevent voter fraud and a minimum 21 days for campaigning.

What happened in past rallies?

Nov 10, 2007: The first Bersih rally at Merdeka Square in Kuala Lumpur was sparked by allegations of corruption and discrepancies in the election system that favoured the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition. Supporters wore yellow T-shirts as a symbol of protest. Organisers estimated that 30,000 to 40,000 took part in the rally.

The protest was credited for the shift in the political landscape in Malaysia's 2008 General Election, when the BN lost its two-thirds majority for the first time since 1969.

July 9, 2011: The second rally, known as the Walk for Democracy, was organised to protest against alleged vote-rigging and other electoral abuses in the Sarawak state election in April 2011. About 50,000 people took part.

Malaysians in 32 cities overseas rallied in solidarity with the protesters. Police fired tear gas and used water cannon with chemical-laced water at demonstrators to stop the march. More than 1,000 people were reportedly arrested.

April 28, 2012: In early April, the Public Select Committee released a report of its findings on electoral reforms. This was passed in the Lower House of Parliament with no debate. An opposition minority report was left out of the final report and none of Bersih's demands was met. This led Bersih to call for a third rally on April 28.

The march was peaceful until some protesters broke through a police barricade. Riot police responded by spraying chemical- laced water and firing tear gas. Hundreds of people were arrested.

What is Bersih 4.0?

Scheduled to take place this weekend, the rally is aimed at pushing for Prime Minister Najib Razak's resignation amid alleged mismanagement of state investor 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) and questions over US$700 million (S$980 million) that was deposited into his personal bank accounts.

Bersih says recent events, including the removal of Attorney-General Abdul Gani Patail and Cabinet ministers who spoke out on the 1MDB issue, led it to call for the rally. Organisers say protests will be held in Kuala Lumpur, Kuching and Kota Kinabalu from 2pm tomorrow to Sunday midnight.

What did the police say?

Malaysian police have declared Bersih 4.0 illegal due to the organisers' failure to furnish premises owners' permission to use their locations as rallying points. They warn that those who join the rally can face legal action. But Bersih has insisted the rally will take place as planned and that it will work with the police to ensure the march is peaceful.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 28, 2015, with the headline 'Group pushing for Najib's resignation over 1MDB saga'. Print Edition | Subscribe