World Bulletin / News Desk
Dozens of Malaysian opposition lawmakers have demanded the release of three colleagues who were detained after expressing support for a weekend anti-government rally.
In a letter signed by 44 members of parliament and sent to the prime minister, parliamentary opposition leader Wan Azizah Wan Ismail described their arrests as “an embarrassment” to the country's legislation history as they are blocked from carrying out their duties as elected representatives.
The three MPs -- all from opposition parties -- were detained a day before Saturday’s Bersih 5 rally in capital Kuala Lumpur, which reportedly attracted close to 50,000 protesters demanding the resignation of the country’s embattled premier, Najib Razak.
Seremban MP Anthony Loke, Ampang MP Zuraida Kamaruddin and Batu MP Chua Tian Chang had earlier openly expressed support for the protest and calls for Razak to step down.
"We opine that their arrests are a disgrace to the country's speech freedom, freedom to gather and freedom of movement, as stated in the federal constitution,” Ismail said in Monday’s letter.
"The police force's actions also dishonored the detainees' position and responsibilities as Members of Parliament," she added while demanding that the three lawmakers be released immediately without any conditions attached.
The lawmakers who signed the letter also urged the ruling National Alliance government to stop “all forms of harassment and allegations” against opposition members.
Saturday’s rally -- the fifth staged by electoral reform group Bersih -- demanded institutional reforms in the country and the resignation of Razak, who the movement demands take responsibility for a corruption scandal allegedly involving indebted state wealth fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).
The rally was also aimed at pressuring authorities for greater accountability and action to be taken against Malaysian Official 1, or MO1, who was named in a July lawsuit by the United States Department of Justice against individuals accused of involvement in misappropriating over $3.5 billion from 1MDB.
It was a continuation of Bersih 4, believed to have attracted more than 200,000 protesters in August last year amid anger over a $681 million “political donation” allegedly sent by Middle East royals to Razak’s personal bank accounts.
Razak has denied any wrongdoing, immediately insisting that he had not swindled funds for personal gain -- as alleged by political opponents.
1MDB -- Razak's brainchild -- was established in 2009 to undertake key development projects in Kuala Lumpur and spur Malaysia’s economic growth.
Since then, the fund has been hit by controversy revolving around 50 billion Ringgit ($12.9 billion) in debts it has incurred since inception.Last Mod: 21 Kasım 2016, 14:37