Several hundred people have gathered peacefully outside Sydney’s Town Hall in what protesters say is the first step in a long journey campaigning for political reform in Malaysia.
Malaysian flags and banners saying “save Malaysia” and “wake up Malaysia” were waved through the air at the rally on Saturday afternoon, which is part of a series of pro-democracy protests being staged in more than 70 cities across the world.
One of the organisers of the gathering, Jason Goh, says protesters’ demands for clean elections, honest government and a stronger democracy, are part of “a very long journey”.
“The government has almost absolute control over the judiciary and the legislature,” the 24-year-old told AAP.
“We are demanding basic democratic rights and that’s not the case in Malaysia currently.”
Saturday’s rally, he said, was the beginning of a process that had to be taken to try and force change.
It was organised by a group called Bersih.
“Bersih in the Malay language means clean so that’s what we are asking for,” Mr Goh said.
It’s the fourth rally staged by Bersih and Mr Goh was predicting a strong turnout at the many events taking place during the weekend.
A similar protest was also being held in Adelaide.
Comment is being sought from South Australian Senator Nick Xenophon, who has vocally campaigned for clean elections in Malaysia and was expected at the Adelaide protest.
Senator Xenophon was deported from Malaysia in 2013 after having travelled there as part of a delegation in 2012 which found elections in the country were easily interfered with.
Around 300 protesters took to the streets in Adelaide CBD, mostly Malaysians.
Some international students among the crowd were allegedly warned their scholarships would be under threat if they took part in the gathering.
Megat Bakar, a protest organiser from University of South Australia, claims an email was sent to select students by a Malaysian government official on Thursday.
“It said students … are not supposed to join political gatherings and … their scholarships could be retracted if they are joining,” he told AAP on Saturday.
Some of those students were forced to wear masks during the protest for fear of retribution, he said.
Senator Xenophon later called on the federal government to ensure there were no ramifications for students.
“It is just completely out of line,” he told AAP.
“It just goes to show what a despotic regime the Najib government is.”