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Malaysia’s 34-Hour Bersih Rally Against Government Corruption Gathers 100,000 People

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Skyscrapers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Skyscrapers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Photo: Carlos G. Vila (PIxabay).

An estimated crowd of 100,000 people gathered over the weekend in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur in support of Bersih 4, a political movement calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak, who is implicated in a corruption scandal.

Bersih, which means “clean” in the local language of Bahasa, was organized to push for electoral reforms in 2007, 2011, and 2012. But this year, Bersih 4 is also calling for the removal of Najib, who is accused of receiving ill-gotten funds from 1 Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), a state-managed investment firm. Najib admitted that he received 2.6 billion ringgit (675 million US dollars), but he said this was an election donation from a friendly Middle Eastern country for his political party.

This year’s Bersih lasted for almost two days (34 hours to be exact) and its ending coincided with the national celebration of Merdeka, Malaysia’s independence day. During the first day of Bersih, police said the crowd was 25,000 in Kuala Lumpur and about 5,000 in other parts of the country. On the second day, the number of protesters in the capital went up to 35,000 in the afternoon, but it swelled to almost 100,000 during the final hours of the program, according to some media reports. Official estimates were not yet provided as of writing.

Bersih 4 was also supported by solidarity gatherings in 70 cities around the world.

The number of people who joined Bersih 4 is impressive considering that the rally is deemed illegal by the government. A recent order was even promulgated that criminalized the wearing of yellow Bersih 4 t-shirts.

Najib downplayed the Bersih protest and claimed that majority of Malaysians still support him. To counter Bersih, his followers vow to mobilize a million “red shirts” on October 10.

One of those who joined Bersih was former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who ruled Malaysia for 22 years. Many were surprised to see Mahathir since he was against the holding of rallies during his term, but some organizers welcomed the presence of the country’s longest-serving prime minister. Mahathir said he supports the call for the resignation of Najib.

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Written by Mong Palatino
Global Voices

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