KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak warned Thursday violence would not be tolerated at a major anti-government demonstration planned for the weekend.
Leading NGO and civil-society alliance Bersih called the rally in the capital to demand the scandal-tainted prime minister’s resignation.
Bersih has urged its supporters to converge on Kuala Lumpur in its signature yellow T-shirts on Saturday.
But the “Red Shirts”, a rightwing group aligned to Najib and his ruling United Malays National Organization, has vowed to confront protesters.
Police have warned that tear gas and water cannons could be used.
“You cannot indulge in any kind of physical clash at all,” Najib said on Thursday, according to the official Bernama news agency.
“That’s not going to be good for us and that’s not the culture that we will want to be accepted as our way of life in Malaysia,” he added.
Najib, who is currently visiting Japan, added: “If one side wants to protest and the side that wants to protect the government is compelled to come out … but I don’t want any physical clash.”
Firebrand Red Shirts leader Jamal Yunos has ominously warned that “anything can happen, including violence.”
The Red Shirts are widely dismissed as ruling-party thugs-for-hire who seek to suppress any moves against Najib over a huge graft scandal.
The rally is set to be the culmination of a seven-week Bersih campaign in response to the scandal involving the prime minister and state-owned fund 1MDB.
Najib is clinging to power despite increasingly damaging allegations that he took part in the looting of billions in state funds.
In an almost two-minute video posted online on Wednesday, former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who has been campaigning to oust Najib, said the country was “in a state of panic” over the scandal.
Najib denies wrongdoing and says his accusers need to “move on,” but last year purged critics and shut down domestic investigations.