Malaysian authorities have blocked access to the website of a civil society group called Bersih, which has been calling for the resignation of Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak over allegations of corruption and the mismanagement of state fund 1 Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB). The group's webpage, www.bersih.org, was not accessible in Malaysia on Friday, after it called for massive anti-government protests.
The government had warned Thursday that it would block websites that encouraged residents to join the two-day rally being arranged by Bersih in the capital Kuala Lumpur this weekend. The group expects 200,000 people to join its third major demonstration against Najib, since he came to power in 2009, Bloomberg reported. Police officials have denied permission for the gathering and will deploy 4,000 personnel to halt it.
“It will be the mother of protests -- the police will jam the phone lines and make it difficult for us to protest,” David Lee, a 23-year-old college student, said, according to Bloomberg, adding: “It’s our right. We want to say no to Najib.”
Over 29,000 people have downloaded FireChat messaging application -- made popular during the Hong Kong protests last year -- that helps people to stay connected even if the cellular networks are congested, Bloomberg reported, citing developers Open Garden.
Bersih was first launched as an opposition party-driven movement in 2006 and re-launched in 2010 as a non-partisan movement without any political influences, Asia One, a local newspaper, reported. The group has used social media and leaflets to organize rallies, which have been termed illegal not only by the police, but also the country’s home ministry.
In 2012, Bersih’s largest rally witnessed firing of water cannons by police officials, who also arrested over 400 people, Reuters reported. Saturday's protest is expected to cause roadblocks as thousands of protesters are likely to gather, the report added. Also, if the government declares a state of emergency during the rally, armed forces would intervene, The Star newspaper reported.
The public outcry was triggered by a July report by the Wall Street Journal, which alleged that investigators were probing the 1MDB after they found that about $700 million was deposited into Najib’s personal account. Najib, who also chairs the advisory board at 1MDB, was blamed for financial mismanagement because the fund has a debt of $11 billion.
However, investigators from the country's anti-corruption agency said that they had traced the money as a donation from the Middle East. Najib, who threatened to sue the Journal for the report, has denied wrongdoing and said that he did not take the money for personal gain.