Activists, local media report total of nine arrests
KUALA LUMPUR — November 18, 2016: Police arrested today the head of Bersih and several opposition leaders, widening a crackdown on government critics a day before a rally calling for Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib
Razak to step down.
Thousands are expected to march tomorrow in a protest organised by Bersih, an electoral reform group, to demand Najib resign over his alleged involvement in a multi-billion-dollar misappropriation scandal at state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB). Najib has denied any wrongdoing.
Bersih chairperson Maria Chin Abdullah and secretariat member Mandeep Singh were arrested shortly after the group’s offices were raided.
City police said they were arrested for offences related to rioting. Laptops, bank and payroll statements were seized.
Human Rights Society chairwoman Ambiga Sreenevasan, Bersih’s former chief, said in a text message the demonstrations would go on despite the arrests.
“I think we will have a larger turnout because of them,” she said.
Last year, more than 200,000 people attended a similar rally organised by Bersih, which has held several mass protests calling for electoral and institutional reforms since 2007.
Five opposition leaders including Anthony Loke and S. Arutchelvan were arrested, civil activists and local media said.
Two student leaders, including Anis Syafiqah Md. Yusof who in August organised a protest calling for arrests in the 1MDB scandal, were also detained.
Najib’s administration has cracked down on the media and civil society in an attempt to silence criticism over his
involvement in a money-laundering scandal at 1MDB.
Founded by Najib, who chaired its advisory board, 1MDB is the subject of investigations in at least six countries,
including Switzerland, Singapore and the United States.
Lawsuits filed by the U.S. Justice Department in July say more than $700 million of misappropriated funds from 1MDB flowed into the accounts of “Malaysian Official 1”, whom U.S. and Malaysian officials have identified as Najib. —Reuters