By William de Cruz
COMMENT Save Malaysia can yet become the country’s most potent and unifying campaign to bring real and lasting change to our country. But the jury of public opinion is as divided as ever because its leader stands as its biggest obstacle to success.
The doctor, who has morphed from prime mover of the Citizens’ Declaration into leader of the campaign, needs to swallow some very bitter medicine.
If Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s true intention is to save Malaysia, he must stand only slightly aside, to publicly anoint and support as leader someone who remains untainted by his own political history.
Along with the other Umno players in the campaign, both rejected and dejected, Mahathir & Co must then be seen to publicly support the new leader wherever they go.
The ideal and most deserving candidate would be DAP parliamentary leader Lim Kit Siang, who has shown the most inspiring statesmanship and magnanimity in the past two weeks or so.
Lim has chosen to set aside immeasurable personal sacrifice, even the pain of his own imprisonment, which the doctor himself prescribed, to come together and actually back Mahathir for the greater good of country. His son, Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng, has also been jailed in the fight for good.
This ideal of Kit Siang as leader of the campaign, however, remains painfully elusive in today’s Malaysia. It is largely the result of a narrative that has been driven and entrenched in some parts of the national psyche by Mahathir himself. His political platform has always held that power and dominance in the hands of Malaysians of Chinese background can only come at the price of making Malaysian Malays subservient to the country’s second-biggest ethnic majority.
The only acceptable alternative, at least for the near-54 percent of registered voters who cast their ballot for the opposition alliance in May 2013, would be for Mahathir to move sideways, and hand the reins to PKR secretary-general Rafizi Ramli.
Bridging the gap
Unlike others in the party he belongs to, Rafizi remains the only one who does not come with Umno baggage, presenting a near impeccable history of having fought for justice on behalf of all Malaysians during his entire political career.
Arguably, Kit Siang has fought for justice in Malaysia longer than Rafizi has lived, but the DAP leader knows more than anybody else that this country cannot yet have an open conversation on a non-Malay leader.
Rafizi at the helm of Save Malaysia, with Mahathir publicly by his side every step of the way and seen to be in sincere support of a Malaysian for all Malaysians, is more than likely to bridge the gap between the disbelievers and those who have chosen to suspend disbelief.
Kit Siang should then be made Save Malaysia’s deputy leader, despite the fact that it was he who first touted the name and ideal nearly two years ago. This move alone would be the first utterance in that conversation about true leadership that we have not been allowed to conduct with impunity in Malaysia.
Other signatories to the declaration, true advocates of democracy and accountability who have risen above their most deeply held grievances with Malaysia’s political aristocracy, are nobody’s fools and do not need lessons in political history.
But they perhaps need to now accept that too many Malaysians are not prepared to forget that same history, too many chapters of which show the doctor as chief protagonist.
The question ‘After Najib, Who?’ may be a matter of putting the cart before the horse, but that very heavy cart may well attract a whole herd of horses to drag it along if someone such as Rafizi were to crack the whip.
Malaysia is in a desperate situation, and the campaign desperately needs to convince more and more Malaysians that any coalition arising out of it will not be a new version of Umno, or even an attempt to restore and repair the party.
Making Rafizi the leader of Save Malaysia, flanked by Mahathir and Kit Siang, may well put to rest that very valid question. The bonus could well be that the Citizens’ Declaration and Save Malaysia are seen in the wider context of fundamental change for Malaysia, first and foremost.
Otherwise, both declaration and campaign are in real danger of becoming all shock, no awe. – Malaysiakini
WILLIAM DE CRUZ is former president of Global Bersih.