Campaign to Save Malaysia hits the road

A general view of the Save Malaysia movement congress in Shah Alam, Selangor, near Kuala Lumpur, on March 27, 2016.
A general view of the Save Malaysia movement congress in Shah Alam, Selangor, near Kuala Lumpur, on March 27, 2016. PHOTO: EPA

Group holds first roadshow to garner support from citizens for removal of Prime Minister

The self-styled Save Malaysia campaign led by former premier Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad held its first roadshow yesterday in an effort to widen support among citizens for the removal of Prime Minister Najib Razak from office.

Held a day after the group's kick-off meeting attended by more than 1,200 people, the movement is looking to pick up momentum among Malaysians by hosting nationwide gatherings and getting people to sign a so-called Citizens' Declaration that calls on the Premier to step down over financial scandals.

The event yesterday was held in Ampang Jaya, a Malay enclave in Selangor. This will be followed by roadshows in Johor next month and in Kedah in May.

Despite the fervour displayed at Sunday's event, the movement has so far not gained much traction among Malaysians, with the event yesterday evening attended by some 400 curious onlookers.

"On TV, things get edited out so I came to see for myself what they have to say," said Mr Mohd Azmi Rahman, 35.

The event, hosted by opposition alliance Pakatan Harapan, saw a few people signing the Declaration, which calls for Datuk Seri Najib's removal through lawful means.

Many, like Mr Azmi, said they would listen to the speeches first before deciding if they would sign the declaration. For some, the hesitation comes from the odd marriage between Dr Mahathir and opposition leaders, including those from Anwar Ibrahim's Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR).

"It's weird. That's why we have to listen to the speeches first," said Ms Noraini Abdullah, 56, a housewife, who has supported Anwar since his 1998 Reformasi campaign.

Dr Mahathir removed Anwar as deputy prime minister and the latter was jailed for sodomy and corruption. Anwar is currently serving a five-year prison term since last year for a second sodomy charge.

Former law minister Zaid Ibrahim said: "Mahathir used to be a dictator, but he's changed. It's not wrong to change if the change is for the people's progress."

The turnout came as no surprise to organisers. Host MP Rafizi Ramli from PKR said there needs to be the first event to kickstart the movement and "break the stalemate".

As familiar politicians and activists parrot the same lines of criticism over Mr Najib's management of Malaysia and his personal scandal on stage yesterday, some of those present said there was no doubt Mr Najib had to go.

Mr Najib has been fending off the twin financial scandals of mismanaging state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad and a mysterious sum of US$681 million (S$932 million) banked into his personal accounts.

Mr Najib has said that the debts of 1MDB are being resolved, and that the money in his accounts was a donation from Saudi Arabia.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 29, 2016, with the headline 'Campaign to Save Malaysia hits the road'. Print Edition | Subscribe