IN arguably his hardest-hitting speech yet, former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad told rural voters in Selama, Perak last night that the country’s ruin will be on their heads if they continued to support the Barisan Nasional government.
Speaking to a crowd of about 1,000 people from the surrounding oil palm estates, the Pakatan Harapan chairman said they could no longer feign ignorance of the financial scandals wracking the country.
Dr Mahathir said he believed rural folk understood that massive amounts of taxpayers’ money have been stolen and that they should do their part to kick out the present regime at the coming national polls.
“People say orang kampung (village folk) do not care. That they don’t understand how much a billion ringgit is,” Dr Mahathir told the crowd at the Ceramah Perdana last night.
“I don’t think village folk don’t understand. They have to pay GST (goods and services tax). They understand that the government is running out of money.
Selama is an agricultural town 45km north of Taiping in Perak. Most of last night’s audience were from the surrounding villages.
Dr Mahathir then attacked Prime Minister Najib Razak: “If you choose him again, I don’t know what to say.
“If we allow him to be prime minister any longer he will do worse. Why is he buying support? Because people don’t like him. He hopes people can be bought off. If you allow him to do this, the country will be destroyed.”
Dr Mahathir also touched on the US Department of Justice’s investigations into 1 Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB), which is alleging that US$4.5 billion (RM18.8 billion) was stolen from the state investor.
“We know where the money went to. It went to Najib. It went to Rosmah (Najib’s wife Rosmah Mansor). It went to Jho Low (Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho). It’s frozen in Singapore. It’s in the US and in Switzerland.
“They want to return the money, but they’re waiting. They don’t want to give it back to Najib.”
Dr Mahathir also took Najib to task for selling land to Chinese firms.
“Najib is dangerous to our country. He always sells land. We should not sell our land. If we sell our land, then we will lose it forever. Once it belongs to someone else, we can’t have it back.”
“TRX, Sungai Besi have been sold off. This is Najib’s way. When you owe people, must pay. If you owe Ah Long (loanshark), he will send people to beat you up.
“Najib owes RM55 billion to build the East Coast Railway. He gave the contract to the Chinese. If we can’t pay the Chinese, what will happen?”
Other speakers at the Ceramah Perdana were Perak Pakatan Harapan chief Ahmad Faizal Azumu, Selangor Senator Muhammad Nur Manuty and Amanah Kuala Krai MP Mohd Hatta Ramli.
In his speech earlier, Hatta pointed to Najib announcement earlier that the government had collected RM41 billion revenue through GST.
“He (Najib) has said that if you abolish the GST, the country would go bankrupt.
“We can fix it. We just need to remove the wastage and corruption,” Hatta said.
Sleepy Selama stays up for Dr Mahathir
AT sunset yesterday, business was brisk at the two petrol stations in Selama, an otherwise sleepy town some 45km north of Taiping, Perak.
Dozens of vehicles made their way to the pumps, past hundreds more that lined streets usually traversed only by oil palm plantation workers.
“‘Saya nak dengar apa yang semua orang kata dulu’ (I want to hear what everyone has to say first),” said Mat Ramzi Mohd, a self-confessed fence-sitter who travelled with his wife by motorcycle from Kampung Kelian Gunung, a half-hour’s ride away.
The draw was Ceramah Perdana organised by Pakatan Harapan, featuring the usual coterie of Amanah leaders, but with the addition of Dr Mahathir Mohamad as the final speaker. Some 1,000 people turned up.
“But I know the economy is in trouble and I’ve heard explanations that it is due to corruption. I’m here to hear what Tun (Dr Mahathir Mohamad) has to say about it.”
Selama, a 90% Malay majority state seat, is under Umno, but by a relatively small margin.
In the 2013 election, Umno’s Mohd Daud Mohd Yusoff won with a 619 majority, garnering 6,854 votes against PAS Mohd Akmal Kamaruddin’s 6,235 votes.
Though the roads leading to Selama is lined with oil palm estates, the nearest Felda settlement is a half-hour drive south in Kamunting.
Selama, along with neighbouring Kubu Gajah and Batu Kurau form the Larut parliamentary seat, held by Umno’s Hamzah Zainuddin, who is minister of domestic trade, co-operatives and consumerism.
Hamzah won with a 5,296 majority in a contest which saw 39,350 voters go to the polls. The figures Amanah Larut chief Razali Ismail finds the figures exciting.
“We are gaining momentum. All it takes is a 10% swing in Malay votes and BN would collapse here. The seats here are more vulnerable than people think.
Razali believes PAS will retain “undi asal” (their original votes) and hopes to recreate the “’99 sentiment”, where the Malays came out strongly following outrage over the sacking of former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim.
“Three-cornered fights can no longer be avoided. From what we see, their core members are only a few hundred people. Maybe 200.”
“We believe Tun can draw in the listeners. It’s definitely a grey area and we think we can swing it in our favour,” he said.
An irony was that the night’s draw was Dr Mahathir, who sacked Anwar nearly 20 years ago. The former prime minister is now chairman of the opposition coalition.
Azman Ismail, 32 from the neighbouring town of Kubu Gajah said the past no longer mattered.
“I’m confident the people want to hear Tun Mahathir’s views,” said Azman, who does odd jobs.
“The most important thing is that the people feel the cost of things are going up. The poor are getting poorer.”
“Tun says we can do something to change things. I want to see things change,” he said.
Not everyone caught what was being said by Dr Mahathir and other speakers on the stage opposite the petrol station on the main Selama road.
One of them was Govinda Muthusamy, a Selama resident since 1992, who was busy attending to the fuel pumps.
“No, I don’t know anything about 1MDB (state investor fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad). I just know things are expensive now,’ said Govinda, 61, a grandfather, originally from Seberang Perai.
Govinda said his biggest concern was rising food costs.
“My family likes to eat fish every week. Fish fried with sambal; Ikan temenggong, ikan kayu. But they are RM13 per kilo now. It used to be RM5,” he added.
“We still eat the fish, just less of it. Maybe soon, we won’t eat them anymore.”
THE MALAYSIAN INSIGHT