On Saturday, August 29th tens of thousands gathered in the Malaysia capital, Kuala Lumpur to show their anger towards the Prime Minister Najib Razak who is accused of corruption involving hundreds of millions of dollars, about $630 million.
The government claims that Mr. Najib received this money as a donation from an undisclosed member of Arab royalty. However, there was a Wall Street Journal report that had tracked this cash to companies linked to a sovereign wealth fund of Mr. Najib’s, called 1MDB.
The demonstration had actually been planned for a few weeks and was prepared with prominent lawyers since protesting is illegal. They have named themselves Bersih, meaning clean in Malay. The protesters held signs of giant checks with the amount of 2.6 billion ringgit and others that read, “You really think we are stupid?”
One person of importance in the group was the former Prime Minister, Mahathir Mohamad from Mr. Najib’s party. The rest of the protesters mainly consisted of Chinese Malaysians, a minority that has recently been turning against the government.
Mr. Mahathir is not the only one calling for Mr. Najib to resign. Allies of his and those in the opposing party want the same. A junior member of Mr. Najib’s party even filed a lawsuit against Mr. Najib asking how the money was spent.
However, the government has been aggressively shutting down any investigation. When reports of the transfers to Mr. Najib’s account were released to the public, Mr. Najib fired Malaysia’s attorney general and shuffled his cabinet. Najib even removed the deputy Prime Minister who had ordered further investigations.
The Transparency International organization, an anticorruption organization is holding a conference in Malaysia this week. Jose Ugaz, the chairman of Transparency International has said that the Malaysian government was manipulating their own anticorruption agency and stonewalling investigations.
Besides the issue of the $630 million, Mr. Najib hs also been blamed of curtailing civil liberties in regards to the increased use of Malaysia’s Sedition Act and the imprisonment of Anwar Ibrahim, the opposition leader last February.
Ironically, Mr. Najib was supposed to be a headline speaker at an anticorruption conference named “Ending Impunity” on Wednesday. However, now the prime minister’s office has not confirmed that he will be attending the event.
Further, Malaysia’s currency has lost a third of its value over the past year, the prices of their largest moneymakers – oil, rubber and palm oil have drastically decreased, causing government revenue to go down. It looks like there may be some trouble in Malaysia’s future.