Kuala Lumpur: Malaysian civilians protest against Prime Minister Najib Razak has entered its second day. The protesters are demanding his resignation over a financial scandal and are also demanding a constitutional reform.
The protests, organised by civil rights group Bersih, started on Saturday morning in three Malaysian cities — Kuala Lumpur, Kuching and Kota Kinabalu.
Authorities estimated the crowd size on Saturday at around 29,000 people, but Bersih organisers said 200,000 took part, Channel News Asia reported.
Protestors said they would continue to occupy the streets until just before midnight.
Former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad made a surprise appearance late Saturday, urging the cheering protestors to “carry on”. He has backed calls for Najib to quit.
Najib is accused of siphoning $700 million from a sovereign wealth fund into his personal accounts. The prime minister has denied the claims.
The rally has been declared illegal by Najib’s government and the police.
“Those who wear this yellow attire… want to discredit our good name, scribble black coal on Malaysia’s face to the outside world,” state-run news agency Bernama quoted the prime minister as saying.
Hundreds of Haitians protested in the streets of the capital, Port- au-Prince, for the ninth consecutive day Friday, despite the president’s assurances that he understands their pain and is working toward a solution.
“We are asking the international community to help us get rid of [President] Jovenel [Moise] because Jovenel is working for them,” a protester told VOA Creole. “Fellow citizens, please if you see Jovenel on the street, handcuff him and throw him in jail,” the young man added.
Moise broke his weeklong silence with a national address Thursday night, which was broadcast nationwide and on Facebook. He sought to calm and reassure a tense and angry nation.
“I hear you,” Moise said, acknowledging criticism about his government’s ineffectiveness and lack of transparency. “I will never betray you. You are the reason I ran for president. I’m working for you.”
He also reminded the country’s most underprivileged citizens that like them, he, too, came from humble beginnings.
Moise announced that he has taken a series of measures to make life better for Haitians and has asked Prime Minister Jean Henry Ceant, whom he described as an electoral rival, to communicate those measures and apply them immediately. He later tweeted that Ceant would announce the new economic measures Friday.
It is still unclear whether or when the prime minister will announce the measures, but in an interview with a local radio station Friday morning, Ceant said the president had pressured him to resign. Ceant said he refused.
On the streets of Port-au-Prince, protesters are burning tires and building makeshift barricades, which are blocking many roads.
“We don’t need for the prime minister to resign,” a protester in his 20s told VOA Creole. “We need lower prices. This morning I went to buy a bag of rice — I’m a poor person — they were asking 350 dollars [Haitian Gourdes, the local currency, are equivalent to about U.S. $3.50]. So, president, I’m asking you to resign. You can go now.”
“Jovenel is adding fuel to the fire,” a protester in his 40s told VOA Creole. “It would have been better if he had never said anything.” The man decried the current living conditions where young people have died and residents are dealing with a water shortage.
“I’m out here [protesting] for the ninth time. I lost a lot of brothers and sisters during these protests,” another man said proudly. “The president humiliated [in his speech last night] by calling us drug dealers, while he sends kudos to the Americans. Mr. President, we are not drug dealers!”
The international community has acknowledged the people’s right to protest but deplored the violence and damage to property.
The U.S. Embassy issued a statement Friday reacting to the protests and the president’s speech.
“The United States Government shares the desire of the Haitian people for a better future for Haiti,” it said. “We encourage all of Haiti’s lawfully elected representatives, and all Haitians who seek a peaceful political solution consistent with Haiti’s constitution to engage in an inclusive dialogue — without resorting to violent action.”
The statement also encouraged “sound economic policy measures” and “transparent resource management” as ways to improve living conditions. (VOA)