Thousands of protesters in Malaysia have gathered for a second day to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Najib Razak over a multi-million-dollar financial scandal.
Hundreds slept out overnight in central Kuala Lumpur after the first day of a rally that has brought into the streets a political crisis triggered by reports of a mysterious transfer worth more than $700m into an account under Mr Najib’s name.
Some people in the 34-hour protest had slept in the streets overnight in an unusually calm demonstration of public outrage by the group Bersih, which means “clean” in Malay, and is a coalition of non-governmental organisations.
This is the fourth demonstration by the group and previous attempts have been met with arrests and teargas.
The first day passed without reports of violence and the rally resumed in a festive mood on Sunday with group exercises, a mass at the city cathedral and interfaith prayers.
The government blocked access to Bersih’s website and banned the wearing of its signature yellow T-shirts, although the crowd of protesters was a sea of yellow.
The protest is due to end on Sunday at midnight. It is an expression of anger against what the group calls one of the greatest multibillion-dollar corruption scandals in Malaysia’s history and the government’s most oppressive crackdowns on free speech.
Najib is facing calls to resign after reports that he pocketed nearly $700m (£456m) from the debt-laden state fund 1 Malaysia Development Bhd.1MDB was launched in 2009 by Najib, who still chairs its advisory board.
The prime minister’s party, the United Malays National Organisation, has been in power coalitions since 1957 in the elective monarchy. It has championed racial laws that favour Malay Muslims who have historically not been as successful in business as their ethnic-Chinese compatriots.
Najib has lost Malay Muslim allies, importantly his former mentor and Malaysia’s leader of 22 years, Mahathir Mohamad, who visited the protest camp on Saturday night to screaming and elated crowds.
Mahathir commands respect in the country of 30 million and has called for a vote of no confidence against Najib, accusing him of halting an investigation into corruption and buying politicians.