Malaysia: Hundreds take to streets in anti-government protests | Coronavirus pandemic news

Protesters are demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, who has been embroiled in a controversy over his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hundreds of people in Malaysia staged anti-government protests on Saturday in defiance of a coronavirus ban on gatherings, stepping up pressure on the embattled prime minister to resign.

Protesters wore masks and kept their distance from one another as they waved banners reading “Failed government” and black flags.

It was Malaysia’s first large-scale demonstration in a long time, as coronavirus restrictions and fears of infection had made many people reluctant to take to the streets.

But anger is growing over the government’s response to the coronavirus outbreak, which has grown despite the lockdown, and Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s attempts to hold power in a time of crisis.

“We are fighting because this government is busy playing politics while the people are suffering,” protester Kalmun Loh told AFP in central Kuala Lumpur. “This government is paralyzing the economy and also destroying our democracy.”

“Muhyiddin is a terrible prime minister and should resign,” added protester Shaq Koyok.

Malaysians join rally in Kuala Lumpur [Arif Kartono/AFP]

There was a heavy police presence and officers prevented protesters from entering the central square before the rally was dispersed peacefully.

Organizers said about 1,000 protesters took part, but police put the number at around 400.

Police told local media that the protesters had violated a ban on gatherings and would be called in for questioning.

Muhyiddin came to power last year without elections as head of a scandal-plagued coalition following the collapse of a reformist government, but his government is on the brink of collapse after allies withdrew their support.

The prime minister came under fresh pressure to resign after Parliament convened this week after a months-long suspension as part of the virus emergency.

The government was accused of avoiding a vote that would test the strength of its fragile majority and received a rare rebuke from the country’s revered king.

Sunday marks the final day of the six-month state of emergency, but the national lockdown will remain in place.

Malaysia has reported about 1.1 million virus cases and more than 8,800 deaths.

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