Hundreds of people demonstrated in the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur on Saturday, demanding the resignation of Muhyiddin Yassin’s government. The prime minister’s opponents are frustrated by his way of fighting the pandemic, the poor state of the economy and abuses of power.
At least several hundred people protested in the center of Kuala Lumpur as part of a rare demonstration of opposition to the government in this country. The demonstrators, many of whom were dressed in black, brought black flags and banners with slogans in Malay and English. “Lost Government,” “Murderer Government,” some of them proclaimed. Several participants brought puppets wrapped in white cloth to symbolize the victims of the epidemic.
The organizers of the demonstration took care to maintain social distance, and its participants wore masks.
“We fight because while people suffer, the government deals with political games,” one of the protesters, Karmun Loh, told AFP. As he added, the government devastates the economy and destroys democracy. Youth activist Sarah Irdina tweeted that protesters will fight to step down because his government “treats inhumanly” those who are fighting for a better Malaysia. She also informed that two days before the planned protest, she was detained for almost 11 hours after the publication of a post calling for them to take to the streets.
Opposition to the prime minister’s policy
The police closed the access roads to the capital’s Independence Square, but did not use force against the demonstrators. There were no incidents during the assembly, and after about two hours, the participants left. Uniforms informed that the organizers had not reported the planned event in advance, and announced that its participants would be interviewed for violating the ban on gatherings in force.
Local commentators note mounting frustration among Malaysians at the government’s response to the ongoing epidemic and the style of Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s governance.
A state of emergency in Malaysia
Muhyiddin, the former interior minister, rose to power in March 2020, shortly before the pandemic was declared worldwide. However, he assumed the post of prime minister not through elections, but as a result of political games, after the resignation of 94-year-old Mahathir Mohamad, who tried to reform the country.
On January 12, the authorities introduced a state of emergency, which is to apply until Sunday, which gives them special powers. During its term, parliamentary sessions were suspended, which – according to critics of the government – allows Muhyiddin, who is losing political support, to continue to hold power. An additional source of public discontent is the ineffective vaccination campaign against the coronavirus and the almost complete lockdown introduced in June, reminiscent of the one at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since April, a country of 32 million has faced two successive waves of infections, dominated by the Delta variant in recent weeks. On Saturday, medical services recorded another record – 17,786 new infections. In total, around 1.1 million people have contracted coronavirus in Malaysia, and nearly 9,000 have died.
Main photo source: PAP / EPA / AHMAD YUSNI