Lights, camera... but action against Najib?

ANTI-NAJIB RALLY: Dr Mahathir addressing supporters in Shah Alam on Sunday. But it will take more than just a coalition of well-known politicians to get the PM to step down.


    Mar 29, 2016

    Lights, camera... but action against Najib?

    WAN Azizah Wan Ismail was a notable no-show at the inaugural gathering of the Citizens' Congress as the group spearheaded by Mahathir Mohamad is now known.

    Dr Wan is not opposed to the group but her support has been rather muted.

    The Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) president was at a wedding reception and as two young PKR leaders escorted her to her car, they told her that Dr Mahathir was willing to meet her.

    She merely smiled.

    When pressed on whether she would be at the gathering, she murmured something along the lines that there was no need as the deputy president (Selangor Chief Minister Azmin Ali) was there.

    She is not ready to forgive or forget what Dr Mahathir did to her husband Anwar Ibrahim and especially the impact on her children.

    It did not matter that her hubby had given his support to his nemesis.

    Her daughter Nurul Izzah also did not attend although she had a programme nearby.

    Both mother and daughter have not signed the citizens' declaration.

    Penang Chief Minister and Democratic Action Party (DAP) secretary-general Lim Guan Eng was also absent. But he probably has a lot on his mind these days, with controversy over the price he paid for his bungalow in Penang.

    Sunday's gathering was to formalise the coming together of a diverse group, some of whom until a while ago were still at each other's throats.

    For instance, everyone can still remember how DAP's Lim Kit Siang had criticised Muhyiddin Yassin for declaring that he is Malay first and Malaysian second. But they were seated side-by-side on stage.

    They are now united in their quest against Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and calling for a regime change.

    It is said that hate and love are two emotions on the same plane. But it looks like hate is the greater motivator in politics given the way it has brought together these assorted characters from both sides of the political divide.

    They are still adjusting to each other and their body language was still awkward and unsure. Even their respective supporters were seated within their own comfort clusters.

    PKR vice-president Rafizi Ramli put it best when he said he had never faced such a diverse and weird crowd.

    Many of the speakers had to watch their mouth, so to speak. The Pakatan Harapan leaders were careful to direct their criticism at Mr Najib and his wife.

    They took care not to mention Umno, the party they most love to attack because two of those on stage, Mr Muhyiddin and Mukhriz Mahathir, are still part of Umno even if they are in the kumpulan terbuang (discarded group), as Mr Muhyiddin puts it.

    All the past excesses of Dr Mahathir were also a no-go area and only Amanah president Mohamed Sabu dared attempt a few jabs, reminding the audience that Dr Mahathir had twice detained him under the ISA.

    The Shah Alam gathering is a signal of more such collaboration to come in pressuring Mr Najib to step down. As to what they will do after that is still unclear. That is an area none of them wants to go into at this point in time.

    In the meantime, they will try to build momentum against Mr Najib, Umno and Barisan Nasional until the general election.

    "This is the beginning of a long journey," said Mr Muhyiddin. History does have a way of repeating. He is the second deputy prime minister to have joined forces with the Opposition against a sitting Prime Minister while Dr Mahathir is the third former prime minister to do so.

    Dr Mahathir may be the biggest name in the Citizens' Congress but the driving force was clearly the Pakatan Harapan people, going by the noise indicator.

    The most deafening cheers were reserved for the Selangor chief minister.

    His boys dominated inside and outside the hall, shouting "Reformasi" and "Bebas Anwar" (Free Anwar) when Mr Muhyiddin arrived.

    The young PKR members seated at the back of the hall looked like they enjoyed all the speeches but were not exactly swept away by their new friends from Umno. They are a generation who have shed sweat and tears for their party and who see their counterparts in Umno Youth as soft.

    Some of them thought that the young and well-spoken emcee, who declared that he used to admire Mr Najib but was now calling for young people to rise up and protest, could afford to talk big because he had not been sprayed by tear gas or thrown into the lockup.

    Their opinion is that the breakaway Umno group needs Pakatan Harapan more than the Opposition coalition needs them.

    It was a successful coming-out party for the Citizens' Congress and a novelty to witness such a mixed bag of politicians on stage.

    It is the most fascinating marriage of convenience in years but the overnight "lovebirds" are not to be under-estimated.

    They may not be able to bring down Mr Najib but they could be a catalyst for more trouble for the ruling coalition.