1MDB saga: Najib critics eye street protests to force ouster

1MDB saga: Najib critics eye street protests to force ouster

Critics of Prime Minister Najib Razak are set to take to the streets as soon as next weekend if he refuses to step down following United States civil lawsuits claiming at least US$3.5 billion (S$4.7 billion) was siphoned out of 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), a state fund overseen by the Malaysian leader.

Pro-reform group Bersih - made up of 94 civil society bodies - said it is mulling over another street protest to renew calls for Datuk Seri Najib's resignation. The main opposition alliance Pakatan Harapan (PH) gave the premier a week before it would take "political action".

"Bersih's process is we have to consult the NGOs (non-government organisations) before we actually make any decision. That is definitely an agenda on the table," Bersih chief Maria Chin Abdullah told reporters yesterday.

Bersih has held four mass demonstrations in the past nine years. In August last year, close to 100,000 brought the capital to a standstill as it demanded Mr Najib's resignation in an overnight rally.

PH issued an ultimatum saying that if Mr Najib failed to vacate his office by July 29, "then Pakatan Harapan will mobilise the people in a political action" on July 30 to protest against his administration.

Long-serving former premier Mahathir Mohamad, who is spearheading a campaign to topple Mr Najib over claims that some US$700 million found in the premier's personal accounts was stolen from public funds, has also called for a "peaceful rally".

Mr Najib has maintained that the money was a political donation from the Saudi royal family. He said on Thursday that the US lawsuits were "a civil action... limited to the names mentioned in the DOJ report".

The US Department of Justice (DOJ) in its court filings named his stepson, Mr Riza Aziz, and businessman Low Taek Jho, a former Najib confidant, as having laundered money out of 1MDB, resulting in a move to seize US$1 billion in assets.

Mr Najib's position as prime minister and Umno president is secure as his party chiefs remain behind him.

Umno's information chief, Datuk Seri Annuar Musa, said yesterday that Mr Najib "is not involved in any civil or criminal charge" and welcomed the US lawsuit. But Mr Najib's family is not all united behind him.

This article was first published on July 23, 2016.
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