Sunday, March 6, 2016

Sight of Dr Mahathir with DAP a turn-off, say Umno members

Three days after Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad united political foes against Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, it appears that his campaign is not going down well with some members of his own former party, Umno. While some, such as the rebel group Coalition of Branch Chiefs Malaysia (GKCM), said ordinary Umno members were going to add their names to the Citizens' Declaration, others said it did not sit well with the party's faithful. They also feel it will be hard to convince Umno members to put aside historical enmity towards opposition parties, especially DAP, and support the initiative. Despite Dr Mahathir's assertion that the Save Malaysia movement and the declaration last Friday was to unite Malaysians regardless of political background or race, the only picture in the minds of Umno members is his collaboration with DAP, a Chinese-majority, multiracial party which is the antithesis of Umno and its Malay supremacist ideals. This has erased any sympathy members have for him when he quit Umno on February 29 over his opposition to Najib, a grassroots leader said. "A lot of members are missing the main message of the declaration entirely and are caught up with the image of Tun with (DAP parliamentary leader) Lim Kit Siang," said Norikman Osman from Johor Baru. "I tried explaining to some of my colleagues that this is not about one party's agenda but something higher, but it's difficult for them to see that," said Norikman, who is Kampung Dato Onn Umno branch leader. "This declaration is about saving the country's democracy, about making the judiciary and MACC (Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission) independent again. But many members do not see this."  A party source close to the Supreme Council said internal surveys among ordinary members showed that their feelings towards Dr Mahathir have swayed widely in the past few days. Many members were either confused or sympathetic towards Dr Mahathir when he left the party four days before he unveiled the declaration. "But this sympathy disappeared after he appeared sitting at the same table with Lim Kit Siang. Those who respect Tun have lost their respect for him," said the source who requested anonymity. Dr Mahathir's appearance with opposition politicians was seized upon by pro-Umno broadcaster, TV3, the day the initiatives were launched on March 4. A Bulletin Utama TV3 report said Dr Mahathir was willing to allow Umno and Barisan Nasional, which he led for 22 years, to be defeated at the next general election. Yesterday, Najib continued the anti-DAP narrative, telling Dr Mahathir that it was a "big mistake" to work with the opposition party, pointing out that his former mentor previously condemned and criticised Lim and DAP. Besides DAP, leaders from opposition parties PKR and Parti Amanah Negara also signed the declaration and were at the press conference. More than 50 people signed it, including Umno stalwarts, such as former deputy prime minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, vice-president Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal, former Kedah menteri besar Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir and Gua Musang MP Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah. A nationwide campaign is to be mounted to get more people to sign the declaration, Dr Mahathir said. But Umno blogger Shahbudin Husin said those behind the initiative realised the difficulty of depending on ordinary members to come out in droves to support it. "If there is support (from within Umno), the number is small but this is why it is called a Citizens' Declaration and Tun Mahathir decided to do it after he left the party and he decided to work with the opposition. "Dr Mahathir also wants to show that the declaration aims to attract everyone. Whether you get a lot of Umno people, it's not important but it's about how many ordinary citizens sign it." Although it would be hard to get Umno members to support it, Shahbudin said the declaration, in the end, was meant to save the party at GE14. "The declaration is a reminder to Umno, if you do not change (Najib), you will lose," said Shahbudin, who also a Wangsa Maju Umno division member. GKCM leader Kamarul Azman Habibur Rahman said the response from branch leaders like him was encouraging. "I have not double checked the signatories but the response has been good and we are working together with a lot of other groups," said Kamarul Azman, who is a branch leader in the Teluk Kemang Umno division. GKCM is a group grassroots leaders demanding Najib step down over the latter's alleged involvement in the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) and RM2.6 billion donation scandals. – March 7, 2016.]]>

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