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Why It Matters

Will the anti-Najib, Save Malaysia campaign make a dent?

The so-called "Save Malaysia" movement took its first swing at Prime Minister Najib Razak on Sunday (March 27), as more than 1,000 invited guests flocked to hear from political and civil society leaders why Datuk Seri Najib must be removed from office for alleged abuse of power and graft.

It was important for the 45 or so personalities who signed the "Citizens' Declaration" early this month (March) to put on a united front, following a barrage of questions over their differing agendas in wanting Mr Najib ousted. Activists and the opposition alike have been criticised for working with Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who, during his 22 years in power until 2003, was accused of the same abuses to stifle dissent.

Dr Mahathir and other leaders from Umno, such as suspended deputy president Muhyiddin Yassin, were asked if they were willing to see supposedly anti-Malay opposition parties in power.


Former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad prays during a Save Malaysia movement event in Malaysia, on March 27, 2016. PHOTO: EPA 

 

But too much time was spent during the six-hour event answering the criticisms. Opposition leaders said they wanted to be "better", not "bitter", people and Dr Mahathir admitted he was a dictator but insisted the public discontent with Mr Najib was greater than when he was prime minister.

What exactly this unlikely gang hopes to do to unseat Mr Najib, aside from gathering a million signatures supporting its cause, remains unclear.

Indeed, jailed opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, who has voiced support for the Save Malaysia group, reminded its members that who Malaysia's next leader will be is for the people to decide.

"You cannot have this game of the elite to try and determine the course of the nation," he said yesterday. "It must be the people's choice, the democratic choice, so back to democracy and institutional governance, that seems to be lacking even in the declaration, the issue of independence, of the judiciary, independence of the election commission, and the need to have institutional reforms."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 29, 2016, with the headline 'Malaysia's future in people's hands'. Print Edition | Subscribe