Malaysia 1MDB scandal

On eve of China trip, Malaysia PM Najib rallies thousands of Umno party supporters as snap polls loom

Najib said his Umno party ‘will be in power for another 1000 years’

PUBLISHED : Friday, 12 May, 2017, 12:32pm
UPDATED : Friday, 12 May, 2017, 12:37pm

More than 85,000 people crammed into Malaysia’s Bukit Jalil stadium Thursday night to hear the embattled prime minister vow another electoral victory ahead of a widely expected snap election this year.

Najib Razak, who arrive in China Friday to attend the two-day ‘Belt and Road’ summit in Beijing, told the crowd the ruling party would triumph despite allegations of corruption.

He is holding on to power despite allegations he took part in the alleged looting of billions from state fund 1MDB. He and 1MDB vehemently deny wrongdoing.

“Whatever the challenges thrown at us by our rivals, we shall overcome them,” Najib said at his ruling United Malays National Organisation (Umno) party’s 71st anniversary celebration.

“Umno will be in power for another 100 years ... Umno will be in power for another 1000 years.”

The packed stadium in Kuala Lumpur was a sea of red, as supporters wore red Umno t-shirts with the number ‘71’ emblazoned on them .

It was a carnival-like atmosphere with stalls selling snacks and party merchandise outside the stadium.

In December, Najib signalled he may bring forward polls that were not due until mid-2018.

He used his stadium speech to call former premier Mahathir Mohamad a traitor and also attacked the Chinese-dominated opposition Democratic Action Party (DAP).

“DAP is a racist party and they hate the Malays,” Najib said.

“Have pity on us, Allah. Please protect the Malays and Umno, Allah,” he added on concluding his hour-long address.

Umno has dominated Malaysia through coalition governments since independence in 1957, often facing accusations of corruption, money politics and trampling of democratic rights. It has also enshrined policies that favour the Malay majority.

Malaysia’s ethnic Chinese minority and a new generation of voters have flocked to the opposition in disgust over racial politics and persistent accusations of corruption and democratic abuses.

But the political opposition has fractured since its former leader Anwar Ibrahim was jailed in 2015 on sodomy charges.

While in China, Najib will have meetings with President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang ahead of the ‘Belt and Road’ international trade initiative summit on Sunday and Monday.

He will also visit the Hangzhou base of China e-commerce giant Alibaba Group, which owns the South China Morning Post.

The New Straits Times reported that Najib would meet Alibaba founder Jack Ma, who is also the digital economy adviser to the Malaysian government.