Forum led by former Malaysian PM Mahathir descends into violence

Forum led by former Malaysian PM Mahathir descends into violence

Some participants threw shoes and chairs at Dr Mahathir and set off flares at the community hall in Shah Alam.

Video screengrab shows what appear to be flares being set off at a community hall where Dr Mahathir was holding an event on Sunday (Aug 14). 

KUALA LUMPUR: A forum led by former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who is seeking to oust the government, descended into violence Sunday (Aug 13) as participants threw shoes and chairs and set off flares.

The town hall meeting was aimed at highlighting a major financial scandal that has ensnared Prime Minister Najib Razak, and which has spurred Mahathir, 92, into coming out of retirement to take on his ex-protege.

But about 90 minutes into the event in Shah Alam, on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, troublemakers started throwing shoes, chairs and bottles towards Mahathir, organiser Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman told AFP.

They also set off flares during the short outburst of violence in the community hall where the event took place, with video footage showing the room filling with smoke.

Mahathir, who had been taking questions from the audience when the violence erupted, was escorted from the building and was unhurt, Syed Saddiq said. At least two people were injured, he added.

"It is clear it was designed to silence Mahathir and the opposition," said Syed Saddiq, the youth chief of Mahathir's recently established Bersatu party.

"But we will never be cowed by these cowards."

Senior opposition figure Azmin Ali accused Najib of "using gangsterism to silence Mahathir. This is a cowardly act".

It was not clear who was behind the violence but it illustrates that political tensions are rising before elections which Najib must call by mid-2018, and that Mahathir is viewed as a potent threat.


In a statement on Monday, electoral reform group Bersih 2.0 condemned what it described as "despicable political violence" that took place at the forum and added that it was "becoming an alarming trend".

"Now is the time for political leadership to end this violence. The deafening silence by the Cabinet is unacceptable. The Home Ministry must set the moral standard as this violence may set the tone for the forthcoming 14th General Election.

"The police must conduct full investigation against the perpetrators and bring them to justice, without fear or favour," the statement added.

Mahathir, who was premier from 1981 to 2003, has excoriated Najib over allegations billions were looted from state investment fund 1MDB in an audacious campaign of fraud and money-laundering.

Before the violence erupted at Sunday's event, called "Nothing to Hide" and attended by some 2,000 people, Mahathir had repeated his criticisms of Najib over 1MDB.

Najib, whose United Malays National Organisation has been in power at the head of a coalition since independence in 1957, and 1MDB deny wrongdoing.

Mahathir's party has joined the opposition coalition Pakatan Harapan, or Alliance of Hope. It last month announced a new leadership line-up, with Mahathir as chairman and his former rival Anwar Ibrahim - who is in jail - as overall leader.

Source: AFP