Mahathir rallies support for Bersih street protest

Dr Mahathir wearing a Bersih 5 T-shirt in a video released yesterday.
Dr Mahathir wearing a Bersih 5 T-shirt in a video released yesterday. PHOTO: CHANG LIH KANG/FACEBOOK

PETALING JAYA • Former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad has appeared in a video wearing a yellow Bersih T-shirt and calling on Malaysians to participate in a rally by the electoral reform group.

The clip was released yesterday on the Facebook page of an opposition leader, just days after Tun Dr Mahathir sported a "Free Anwar Now" badge at a convention of opposition parties in Selangor.

The unconventional moves by Dr Mahathir, 91, did not go unnoticed - he was against street protests and sent his deputy Anwar Ibrahim to jail during his tenure as prime minister.

A reader, commenting on the video in the Malaysiakini news website, said: "In my wildest imagination, I did not ever think that I will see this happening! Our 90+ year old former PM, in a yellow t-shirt, is rallying Malaysians to come together to don yellow..."

The rally in Kuala Lumpur, planned for Saturday and known as Bersih 5, is being held to call for the resignation of Prime Minister Najib Razak over the financial scandal involving state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad. There were four previous Bersih rallies attended by tens of thousands of people in Kuala Lumpur.

Dr Mahathir, speaking in Malay in the video, said: "Malaysia is now in distress because the administration of Prime Minister Najib has caused the country to incur billions of ringgit in debt, which cannot be paid by the government and state.

"That is why we must show our dissatisfaction with the government through our participation in the rally by Bersih at Dataran Merdeka and at any other locations that have been announced." Dataran Merdeka is a public square in Kuala Lumpur.

"I hope all Malaysians will join this rally by Bersih because they are seeking to find a way to heal our country through changing the government," he added.

Dr Mahathir showed up at the Bersih 4 rally with his wife last year, although at the time they were still Umno members.

Dr Mahathir quit Umno in February this year and announced in August the creation of a new opposition party, Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia, which he chairs. He mended ties with Anwar in September by meeting him in court.

Dr Mahathir, speaking at the Pakatan Harapan convention last Saturday, called on the opposition to work on avoiding multi-cornered fights at the next polls to ensure one-to-one contests against ruling coalition Barisan Nasional.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 17, 2016, with the headline Mahathir rallies support for Bersih street protest. Subscribe