KL Protest: Malaysia PM Najib defends response, US expresses concern

Updated On: Jul 15, 2011

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said his government’s security response to the recent Bersih 2.0 rally was "quite mild” and there was "no undue use of force".

In an interview with CNN during his visit to the United Kingdom, Najib said although some 1,650 people were arrested, they were released after eight hours and were treated well.

But according to Najib, the Malaysian government is already committed to electoral reforms and supports fair elections. Najib noted that in the last general election, the ruling party lost five states and was deprived of a two-thirds majority. If elections were unfair, the party would not have lost those states.

Report: ‘Minimum force’ [New Straits Times, 15 July 2011]

Video Interview: Malaysian PM on KL protests [Straits Times, 15 July 2011]

Najib is currently on a four-day official visit to the United Kingdom, at the invitation of British Prime Minister David Cameron.

The two countries have already signed a new memorandum of understanding aimed at curbing transborder crimes, with more talks to follow.

Human rights group Amnesty International has urged Cameron to raise the issue of electoral protests in Malaysia during his meetings with his Malaysian counterpart. But so far there has been no indication of the matter being discussed.

Report: Najib, Cameron Hold Talks in London [Bernama, 14 July 2011]

Some 20,000 people gathered in downtown Kuala Lumpur last Saturday, rallying for changes to Malaysia's electoral system. Police fired tear gas and water cannons at the demonstrators. One person died of a heart attack during the rally.

Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim was one of a small number of people injured in the protest. He was taken to hospital after he fell to the pavement from a tear gas attack.

A group calling itself the Bersih 2.0 coalition organised the rally, saying the electoral system is plagued with fraud and favours the ruling coalition. They want longer campaign periods, automatic voter registration and equality of access to the largely government-linked mainstream media. But Saturday's rally was condemned as illegal by Malaysian authorities.

The United States has expressed concern over the crackdown in Malaysia.

In his daily press briefing, the US State Department's Mark Toner said people should be allowed to "freely express their democratic aspirations".

But he stressed that while protestors have the right to express their aspirations, the onus is also on them to do so in a peaceful manner.

Report: US concern at Malaysia crackdown on protests [BBC News, 14 July 2011]

Transcript: Daily Press Briefing [US State Department, 13 July 2011]

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