The man at the centre of angry street protests in Kuala Lumpur some two decades ago today addressed a gathering of his former critics, urging them to let bygones be bygones.
“Can we let go of the past?” Dr Mahathir Mohamad asked some 200 people gathered at a convention of “reformasi” supporters here today.
Reformasi is the movement led by jailed opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim to press for political reforms and for the ouster of then prime minister Mahathir, following his dramatic sacking from the Cabinet in September 1998 after a fallout with Mahathir.
It triggered some of the largest anti-government protests in Malaysia since independence, with scores of protesters arrested during their weekend rallies in Kuala Lumpur.
“That is why I came here today,” the former prime minister told the crowd today.
His plea received mixed response, with some heard shouting: “No! 18 years Tun!”
It is understood that Mahathir’s speech was not part of today’s programme. Saari Sungib, who leads a group of former reformasi activists called Otai Reformis, told news portal Malaysiakini that the former leader himself had made a request to attend the event.
Amid chants of “Reformasi” and “Bebas Anwar” (Free Anwar), Mahathir admitted that not everyone was his fan.
“I know I am not someone who is liked by everyone,” he said, followed by murmurs of “That’s true” from the crowd.
But the 91-year-old braved the crowds, and called for unity to face the Barisan Nasional (BN) government.
“You can say what you want. You can call me Mahafiraun if you like,” he said, referring to a derogatory title given to him by critics.
“But like it or not, if we don’t unite, our hope to see a new government will fail,” said Mahathir, who now chairs Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM).
He said the focus now should be to topple the BN government.
“After that, if you want actions to be taken against me, go ahead. Because as long as we have no power, these struggles of ours will not succeed.
“There’s no use fighting if we don’t know how to organise ourselves in order to make our goals a success.
“If we really want reformation, win the elections first,” he added.
Source : Nawar Firdaws @ FMT Online