Former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad told a rather hostile crowd at a Reformasi event today that they could take action against him after they have worked together to win the next election.
“Can we unite and fight to get rid of Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak? That is the main thing.
“After that, (if you) want to take action against me, go ahead, I do not mind,” Mahathir said during his speech at the Konvesyen Reformis in Shah Alam today.
This appeared to have won over the 300-strong crowd, comprising mostly of supporters of the 1998 Reformasi movement.
One man at the front of the hall howled with laughter and gave Mahathir two thumbs-up. “I salute you!” he shouted.
The Bersatu chairperson had made a surprise appearance at the Reformasi event where he was greeted with shouts of “Reformasi” (Reformation), “Bebas Anwar” (Free Anwar) and “Firaun” (Pharoah).
Before his arrival, the anti-Mahathir sentiment was palpable, especially whenever the former premier’s name was mentioned by speakers on the podium.
The Reformasi movement was sparked by the arrest and jailing of Anwar Ibrahim in 1998 after he was sacked as deputy prime minister by Mahathir.
The movement, which saw massive protests in the streets of Kuala Lumpur, demanded the resignation of Mahathir.
Anwar’s supporters have long blamed Mahathir for Anwar’s fall from power and his incarceration over sodomy and corruption charges, which they said were trumped-up.
In his speech today, Mahathir told the unfriendly crowd that they had to set aside personal opinions and emotions and focus on the main fight, which is to get rid of Najib and his government in the upcoming general election.
In order to bring reforms, he said, they need to gain power first.
“I am not someone who is liked by everyone; a lot of people still do not like me,” he said. “That is why I say it is important for us to forget what is in the past.”
The crowd began protesting, and shouts of “(We) cannot forget” filled the hall.
That was when Mahthir told the crowd they could go after him after they have gotten rid of Najib.
Still, not everyone was enamoured by him with some in the crowd calling for him to apologise, which he did not do.
As the crowd’s fervour calmed down, Mahathir ended his speech, “If we really want ‘reformasi’, win the election first.”
Otai Reformis 1998 chairperson Saari Sungib later told Malaysiakini that they did not invite Mahathir, but the former premier had requested to attend the event. – Malaysiakini