Malaysian PM Says He Won’t Step Down

Hata Wahari
2015.08.31
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150831-MY-najib-1000 Prime Minister Najib Razak gestures before the start of Malaysian National Day celebrations in Kuala Lumpur, Aug. 31, 2015.
AFP

Marking the 58th anniversary of Malaysian nationhood, Prime Minister Najib Razak dismissed calls for his resignation and criticized organizers of massive protest rallies in Kuala Lumpur over the weekend.

“We reject any form of street demonstration that can jeopardize public order and only inconvenience the people, because it does not at all reflect maturity, much less the proper channel to express views in a democratic country,” the beleaguered prime minister said in his National Day speech at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Center on Sunday night.

On Monday, Najib presided over National Day celebrations in downtown Kuala Lumpur, where as many as 300,000 people, according to organizers, had rallied against his government on Saturday and Sunday.

They were demanding political reforms and that Najib step down over corruption allegations and a scandal surrounding the troubled 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) state fund. Najib has been under mounting pressure to resign over allegations that U.S. $700 million in mysterious deposits wound up in his private bank accounts.

“As we are aware, what had occurred in the last two days is very improper. It reflects a shallow mind and a poor spirit of nationalism,” Najib said of the rally.

“Once the sail has been spread, when the anchor has been weighed, it is forbidden for the skipper and the crew to make a U-turn,” Najib told the nation on the eve of the celebration, according to a transcript published by the state-run Bernama news service.

He assured his countrymen that his government was doing all it could to safeguard the country’s economy, amid deep worries about the ringgit’s plummeting value against the American dollar.

“It is clearly proven that Malaysia is not a failed country, as alleged by some, it is not going bankrupt,” Najib said. “In fact, we are actually still in a stable condition, with strong fundamentals, and will continue to remain sustainable and competitive.”

Najib’s United Malays National Organization (UMNO) party has been in power since 1957.

‘A mesmerizing spectacle’

Large crowds of spectators waved Malaysian flags as a procession of soldiers, police and civil servants paraded Monday down the streets of the nation’s capital.

“Malaysians from all walks of life descended in droves to Dataran Merdeka [Independence Square] here today to proudly display their patriotic spirit and solidarity in celebrating National Day 2015,” was how Bernama described the day’s festivities.

“The sea of Malaysians had the opportunity to witness almost 13,000 participants from the public and private sector, security forces, school students and a group of mountain guides take part in a mesmerizing parade.”

During the two preceding days, a sea of yellow-clad protestors filled the downtown area, taking part in a 34-hour rally organized by Bersih, a grassroots movement calling for clean government in Malaysia.

Bersih activists also gathered in Kuching and Kota Kinabalu, on Borneo island, and in foreign capitals, in their most peaceful mass action to date. Rallies in 2011 and 2012 were marred by stone-throwing and car burning, and dispersed with tear gas and water cannon.

"They put the crowd estimate at over 300,000 … We succeeded in staging a large, safe assembly,” Bersih chairwoman Maria Chin Abdullah said.

No let up

Mahathir Mohamad, Malaysia’s 90-year-old former prime minister, who has become a fierce critic of his successor, appeared twice at the Bersih rally in Kuala Lumpur.

On Sunday, “Dr. M” addressed the huge crowd.

“The only way to return rule of law is to remove this prime minister, and to remove him, the people must show people’s power,” the Malay Mail quoted Mahathir as saying.

“We should move a motion of no confidence in Parliament,” he added.

On Monday, Najib’s critics kept the pressure on Najib.

Noor Farida Ariffin, spokeswoman for a group of prominent Malaysian intellectuals known as the G25, criticized the prime minister for his response to the Bersih movement.

"If I were him, I would listen to the people and do something to accept and initiate change demanded by the people," she told BenarNews.

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