Explosions, Arson Disrupt Najib’s Malaysia Election CampaignManirajan Ramasamy and Liau Y-Sing
Malaysian police are investigating attacks on two of Prime Minister Najib Razak’s campaign offices amid reports of increasing violence ahead of the May 5 election.
Unidentified assailants started a fire with two petrol bombs thrown at an operations room of the governing Barisan Nasional coalition outside of Kuala Lumpur today, Ramli Mohamed Yoosuf, assistant commissioner of police, said by phone. Yesterday, a small explosion disrupted a campaign event attended by about 3,000 Najib supporters in northern Penang state, injuring a 35-year-old security officer, Abdul Rahim Hanafi, the region’s police chief, said in a statement.
“This is shaping up to be the most violent election in living memory,” James Chin, a professor of political science at the Malaysian campus of Australia’s Monash University, said in an interview by phone. “The main reason is that in the last five years, there has been a tremendous growth in the number of right-wing groups.”
Najib’s Barisan Nasional is battling to extend its 55-year grip on power against a reinvigorated opposition led by former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim. Campaigning officially began on April 20, with brokerages from RHB Investment Bank Bhd. to Citigroup Inc. predicting the closest result since Malaysia’s independence from Britain in 1957.
Najib, campaigning in the eastern state of Sabah today, condemned the Penang attack. All parties vying for parliamentary and state seats should compete in a “healthy manner” in tandem with democratic practices, state-run Bernama cited the prime minister as saying.
“We have nothing but contempt for those who would cynically endanger Malaysian lives,” Anwar said in an e-mailed statement today. The opposition “categorically condemns the culprits who are responsible for these bombs, explosions and arson.”
Fifteen people have been arrested and more than 200 police reports on poll-related violence and misdemeanors have been filed since campaigning officially began four days ago, Ramli said. Incidents included fights and complaints about pulling down campaign flags, he said.
Security at campaign venues will be increased, the Star reported, citing Inspector-General of Police Ismail Omar.
Malaysian police detonated a second explosive planted in a pile of rubbish behind Barisan Nasional’s Penang office in the early hours of this morning, said Ramli, adding that both were homemade devices the size of a cigarette box. “The forensics team is still investigating,” he said.
The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections, a group of non-governmental organizations known as Bersih, has been collating complaints online.
“It can be contained,” Irene Fernandez, co-chairwoman of a Bersih special code of conduct committee, said by phone. “It’s up to the parties’ leadership and candidates to ensure that no form of violence is used as a way to gain victory. Police should investigate and ensure safety and security impartially.”