Selling the Save Malaysia movement to a sceptical Malaysian

Julia Yeow
The Malaysian Insider
13 March 2016

It’s been slightly more than a week since former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad announced he was championing a “people’s movement” to call for the resignation of his hand-picked successor Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

Malaysians have been largely divided as to whether or not they should celebrate a loose coalition that claimed to want to save the country, or if they should run as fast as they could from another marriage of convenience between parties that have too many fundamental differences to be taken seriously as a team.

The largely ambivalent response to Dr Mahathir’s new grouping has led to prominent anti-Najib activist and former de facto law minister Datuk Zaid Ibrahim to make an impassioned plea for Malaysians to put aside their political leanings for this season of time, and come out in full support of this initiative.

Malaysians have been through much disappointment over the past year, and most are fatigued from the string of political manoeuvrings which have churned out more question marks than answers over the issue of Najib’s RM2.6 billion, and the colossal losses by state-owned investment firm 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

If Dr Mahathir’s Save Malaysia effort really hopes to convince one million citizens to put aside their cynicism and throw their support behind him, he will need to do much more than launch an online petition, form a secretariat or send out press statements.

Dr Mahathir and his team need to address the elephant in the room, which is the question of what happens if and when Najib does step down.

Zaid appeals to Malaysians to put aside this question for now, but on the contrary, this is the time that Malaysians must insist on leadership based on principles and values, and not settle for surface level change.

If this movement truly aims to save Malaysia from its doldrums, are we expected to accept that all that is wrong with Malaysia today stems purely from one man being in power?

The Save Malaysia movement must spell out to Malaysians what system will be put in place to ensure that Najib’s successor will be someone who is truly capable of leading this country to greatness, and a leader who has proven to be consistent in his stand against corruption and abuse of power.

Even if it’s unable to name a candidate at this time, it must be able to address the fears of many Malaysians that the new prime minister would be no different from the existing one.

Dr Mahathir needs to show us the angel we don’t know, otherwise Malaysians will naturally be inclined to stick to the devil we do.

Dr Mahathir’s movement must also cut through the confusion of the many other anti-Najib movements, and make clear exactly how they hope to pressure Najib to step down.

This is important because if everything Dr Mahathir, the opposition and civil society groups have been doing for the past one year have not gotten them any closer to forcing Najib’s resignation, how does this new movement differ in its effectiveness?

Public pressure and international shaming are obviously water over Najib’s back, leaving only the options of a vote of no-confidence in Parliament, and an intervention by the Rulers, as the two possible democratic ways to unseat our prime minister.

But Dr Mahathir’s movement has kept rather silent on this question as well, either to keep their gameplan under wraps, or because they simply have no idea themselves.

Malaysians are tired of rhetoric and unwilling to support any movement that could very likely be just convenient stepping stones for ambitious, self-serving leaders.

But make no mistake that we are hungry for change, and eager to put to an end the political deadlock and the utter lack of transparency from our government leaders.

However, even in our desperation, we must not be like sheep blindly following shepherds who could possibly turn out to be wolves.

Until we see a commitment to addressing the policies and systems that have led to the very problem that Dr Mahathir wants to get rid of now, we must not be so naïve to think that any movement – regardless of how charismatic its leader – will succeed in saving Malaysia. – March 13, 2016.

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