Heavyweights from across Malaysia's political spectrum are calling for a national movement to remove Prime Minister Najib Razak from power as the outcry over his scandal-hit tenure reaches a crescendo. The unlikely alliance among political foes highlights the depths of anti-government sentiment after it classified a long-awaited federal report on state-funded 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) under the Official Secrets Act (OSA).
Lawmakers have been banned from taking copies of the report outside of parliament as political tensions reached breaking point. Earlier this week, total bank deposits into personal accounts of Razak were reported to have topped $1bn (£716m). That's hundreds of millions more than previously identified by investigations into 1MDB and the reasons as to why such huge sums were reportedly paid to Razak are unclear.
The crisis hit new lows following the government crackdown on press freedom after it recently imposed extra restrictions on domestic and international reporting on Malaysian current affairs. Authorities had recently blocked access to online news portal, The Malaysian Insider, prompting strong backlash from the US over its curtailment on press freedom.
Former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad is leading the calls to remove Razak from power and is supported by a number of politicians. Reading the demands enshrined in a Citizen's Declaration at a press conference on 4 March, Mohamad said: "We call upon all Malaysians, irrespective of race, religion, political situation, creed or parties, young and old, to join us in saving Malaysia from the government headed by Najib Razak." Mahathir walked away from the ruling party in disgust at Razak's premiership, which has been shrouded in controversy and allegations of corruption.
Razak's opposition railed against the government's censorship of the press to such a degree that it is forced to rely on foreign news organisations. "Today Malaysia's image is badly tarnished. Apart from being classified as one of the 10 most corrupt countries, Malaysia is now regarded as undemocratic," the declaration read.
"There is denial of freedom of speech and freedom of the press and people live in fear of arrest and detentions. Security laws are enacted to allow the prime minister (and not the king) to declare security areas where anyone could be arrested and detained without trial and tried under procedures that violate normal and fair criminal justice standards."
Malaysians have taken to Twitter to vent their anger at Razak and express their opinion on the embattled leader. One user sarcastically thanked him for doing more for national unity than any other "crime minister" while others urged him to "be a man for once".