On Sunday, I said that there is an air of panic in Putrajaya as a result of the historic 304 (March 4) Citizens’ Declaration for Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s removal as Prime Minister and call for democratic and institutional reforms to Save Malaysia.
As an example, I cited Najib’s emergency summoning of UMNO/BN Members of Parliament to his official residence 24 hours after the Citizens’ Declaration on Saturday.
While UMNO/BN leaders put up a stoic front, denying that they were in any way bothered by the Citizens’ Declaration, the ban on Asia’s best debater, Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman, 23, from speaking at the local universities provides another sign of the panic in the Putrajaya corridors of power over the Citizens’ Declaration, signed not only by the longest-serving former Prime Minister, Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, the former Deputy Prime Minister, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, former Ministers as well as by political and civil society leaders totaling 45 personalities.
Even more important, the Citizens’ Declaration has the effect like clap of thunder in the political landscape giving renewed hope to many Malaysians about the possibility of political changes in the country, although there are also reservations and doubters.
This is captured by one social media poll by Malaysiakini’s English Facebook and Twitter accounts, recording 76.2 per cent of 5,5852 respondents in favour of the declaration, 11.6 per cent rejection and 8.8 per cent skeptical about the entire issue.
The Citizens’ Declaration is unprecedented, historic and a major watershed in Malaysian political landscape because it crossed the great political divides in the country and accords with the sentiment of overwhelming majority of Malaysians, regardless of race, religion, region, politics, age or gender.
Even Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim from inside Sungai Buloh prison, has given full support to the bridging of the political divides as he endorses a movement which is not to be limited to “personal agendas or political vendettas” but to “chart a new way forward to save our beloved nation”.
Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh’s attributing the blame for Syed Saddiq’s ban to autonomy which has been given to the public universities do not wash, as nobody believes that Idris would say the same thing if the Prime Minister or if he himself had been subjected to a similar ban as that imposed on Syed Saddiq.
Idris should send an unmistakable message to all the public universities that they have the “autonomy” not to ban Syed Saddiq from speaking at the university functions. Would Idris do this and get the local universities to revoke the ban on Syed Saddiq.
Another sign of the panic in the corridors of power in Putrajaya are the lies and exaggerations about the after-effects of the Citizens’ Declaration, with one claim that 250 buses had been hired to ferry 100,000 paid protests to a gathering in Selangor on March 27, organized by former Law Minister, Datuk Zaid Ibrahim.
This is indeed a big surprise, for when Zaid informed me about the proposed March 27 gathering, he was talking about a closed-door gathering of some 500 people. Where then do the 250 buses and 100,000 paid protestors emerge from?
There have been both bouquets and brickbats for the 304 Citizens’ Declaration.
Nelson Mandela’s experience may be useful and relevant, where the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate emerged from over 10,000 days of imprisonment in apartheid South Africa to participate in a national reconciliation and salvation campaign where, in his own words in his autobiography “Long Walk to Freedom”, “Historic enemies who had been fighting each other for three centuries met and shook hands”.
These words of Nelson Mandela in his autobiography may be pertinent for Malaysians at this stage of Malaysia’s multiple national crises, with some describing them as approach of a “perfect storm”:
“I wanted South Africa to see that I loved even my enemies while I hated the system that turned us against one another.” (p. 568)
“I would not mince words about the horrors of apartheid, but I said over and over, that we should forget the past and concentrate on building a better future for all”. (p. 614).