Rally Against Malaysian Prime Minister Najib After Corruption Allegations

On March 28, the Malaysian opposition coalition organized its first public rally in Kuala Lumpur against Prime Minister, Najib Razak after being accused of corruption and financial mismanagement. The 700 million dollar corruption scandal has made many Malaysian elites. including former PM Mahathir Mohamad, demanding Najib’s resignation. It was in July of 2015 when the Wall Street Journal broke the news that nearly $700m were transferred into Razak’s personal bank accounts from 1 Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), which is a state-funded development fund. The alleged wrongdoing was strongly denied by the PM and the 1MDB.

“Najib’s leadership undermines the very existence of our institutions,” said the former leader during the rally. Mahathir also mentioned the alleged personal donation of $681m to Najib from the Saudi Royal Prince, which was given before the 2013 election. The fact that the donation was given to a foreign leader, as opposed to a government institution made many people suspicious about Najib’s financial management and the extent of foreign influence over the Malaysian political system. Mahathir wondered why the money was suddenly given to Najib as he had long been denied contributions from the Saudis to build an Islamic University. Leaders from across the political spectrum, from the ruling party and opposition groups, as well as civil society, were gathered to listen to Mahathir. The unusual gathering, called Save Malaysia, was formed in early March after long speculations of Najib’s actions. According to the movement, the only thing that can save Malaysia is the removal of the PM. Despite having a bad history with Mahathir, the jailed opposition leader, Anwar Ibrahim has also come to support the movement.

As a result of these recent uprisings the Najib administration has started suppression against any anti-government reporting. While the local news broadcasts rarely criticise the government, several international reporters have been deported from Malaysia as a result of their agenda. In July last year, Najib sacked his deputy prime minister, attorney general, and four other ministers, who questioned Najib’s handling of the 1MDB affair. According to Najib, their opinions could have affected public opinion against the government and the discharge was necessary in order to build a more “unified team” for the 2018 election.

According to the organizers of the Save Malaysia movement, they will continue to fight for support against Najib. They will travel across the country to raise awareness of the situation and collect signatures from those who wish to see Najib resign. Supporters believe that the campaign has gathered people from all political backgrounds while others suggest that the international attention will portray a bad image of Malaysia.

Sally Wennergren