Thousands of people wearing yellow T-shirts flooded the streets of Malaysia’s capital, Kuala Lumpur, on Saturday to call for the resignation of embattled Prime Minister Najib Razak.
The rally was organized by Bersih, a coalition of nongovernment organizations that want to reform and clean up Malaysia’s electoral process. Bersih means “clean” in Malay, and Saturday’s rally was the fifth phase of street protests the group has undertaken. Bersih supporters wear yellow T-shirts.
A statement from the Prime Minister’s office dismissed the protest as the rantings of a politically ineffective and anti-democratic opposition movement. While Malaysians have the right to assemble peacefully, the “right is not absolute,” and authorities could take actions to ensure public safety, the statement said.
“It is unlawful for any parties to try to unseat a democratically elected government via street protests,” it said. “They should play by the rules of our democracy and wait until the next election so that the majority of Malaysians can again choose their government via the ballot box.”
Public dissatisfaction with Najib has grown, especially after news broke over alleged financial mismanagement of a government-run fund called 1Malaysia Development Berhad, or 1MDB. 1MDB was formed in 2009 to invest in property, infrastructure and energy projects. As much as $4 billion could have been “misappropriated” from the Malaysian government, the Swiss attorney general’s office said in January.
Saturday’s gathering was peaceful, and monsoon rains eventually disbursed the crowd.
The last Bersih protests were in August 2015. They ran for two days and also called for Najib’s resignation.