Kuala Lumpur: Beleaguered Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak on Monday refused to resign over a USD 700 million financial scandal and scorned protesters who took to the streets at the weekend to call for his dismissal over the issue, saying he will not let instigators destroy the nation.
As multi-ethnic Malaysia celebrated its National Day today, Najib said such protests were "not the proper channel to voice opinions in a democratic country".
"This country is built on the sacrifices of our heroes who had given their lives to ensure the people will be free and live in peace," Najib said in his live address on television on the occasion.
Instead of his usual recorded message televised on the eve of National Day, Najib this year addressed the nation 'live' with a promise that he will not let Malaysia fail despite the shrinking currency and vowed?not to let instigators destroy the nation.
The government reclaimed the streets of the capital today and staged its own show of force with colourful celebrations attended by thousands.
Asking people to use the ballot box to judge the government, he pleaded for calm so that he and his team could focus on ways to overcome the current challenges.
Najib also called on the people not to believe rumours that Malaysia would go bankrupt.
"Such allegations are spread by those with certain agenda," he said.
"We will never allow anyone from within or from outside, [to] simply walk in and steal, ruin or destroy all that we have built so far," state news agency Bernama quoted Najib as saying.
"Let us all remember, if we are not united, lose our solidarity and cohesion, all problems will not be resolved, and everything we have laboriously built will be destroyed just like that."
He said protests which "disrupt public order and only inconvenience the people" did not reflect maturity and were "not the proper channel to voice opinions in a democratic country".
Tens of thousands of people took to the streets at the weekend, urging Najib to step down over allegations he took millions of dollars from a state fund.
Police said about 25,000 people took part in the two-day weekend demonstration organised by pro-democracy group Bersih [Clean]. The NGOS put the figure at 300,000.
Najib has denied taking 700 million dollars from a debt ridden state fund.
The scandal gripped the nation after Wall Street Journal published documents showing that the 700 million dollars came from the 1MDB state investment fund.
The 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) fund was set up under Najib when he took office in 2009 to transform Malaysia into a high-income economy.
Criics said the fund overpaid for many of its
investments. The fund came into public focus at the end of 2014 when it started missing payments to creditors.
It later emerged that the fund had a debt of millions of dollars.
As protests grew over the report, Najib removed several leading officials who had criticised his handling of the scandal.
However, Malaysia's anti-graft agency cleared him, saying the money was from a middle eastern donors. The donor's name has not been disclosed so far.
The movement against Najib has been fuelled by influential former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamed who was also present at the rally in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.
Mahathir, who led Malaysia from 1981-2003 and was formerly a Najib ally, has called for his resignation.
The rally in Kuala Lumpur was deemed illegal, but was allowed to go ahead, and ended peacefully.
Najib's coalition, Barisan Nasional, has governed Malaysia since independence 58 years ago.
But its support has declined in recent elections, and its critics have accused it of arrogance.