Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Name your allies, ex-Bersih chief tells Anwar

Sheraton or Meridien, Ambiga Sreenevasan warns the PKR leader that the people's acceptance of any new government is paramount.

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The former chairman of Bersih 2.0, the once popular civil society organisation behind mammoth rallies calling for greater democratic reforms, appears to be questioning the latest move by Anwar Ibrahim to engineer a coup through defections of MPs including those from Umno.

At the centre of Ambiga Sreenevasan’s criticism is what she feels is an about-turn by supporters of the PKR leader in accepting Umno MPs who are facing corruption charges.

Ambiga said Anwar must come clean on who his newfound allies are.

“I think it is important that there is clarity about who makes up the numbers. And you know, they must be transparent to the people,” Ambiga told MalaysiaNow.

She was asked about a series of posts on her Twitter account since Anwar’s much publicised announcement yesterday, in which the PKR leader declared that Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s government had effectively collapsed.

Anwar also said he would be seeking an audience with the Agong to show that he has a “formidable” majority, claiming that his bloc will be dominated by Malay and Bumiputera MPs.

His claim led to speculation that at least 10 Umno MPs would cross over to his camp.

But an investigation by MalaysiaNow through conversations with key Umno leaders reveals that there are only “one to three” MPs from the Malay party who could be joining Anwar.

“And at least two of them would include the same persons over whom Dr Mahathir Mohamad backed out from joining Muhyiddin’s coup in February,” an Umno MP told MalaysiaNow, on condition of strict anonymity.

Pressed further, the MP revealed that he was approached by several proxies to “switch camps to Anwar”, but refused to give more details.

MalaysiaNow is withholding their names pending their response.

In February, Mahathir said he would not be part of any new coalition if it comprised Umno leaders who were facing corruption charges, including former prime minister Najib Razak and party president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.

Ambiga, who called Anwar’s announcement the “Meridien Move” – a reference to the hotel where his press conference was held yesterday – is a rare voice among civil society activists critical of Anwar’s plan.

She said Anwar must explain how his plan is any different from the Sheraton Move, the series of political meetings in Petaling Jaya which ultimately ousted PKR, DAP and Amanah from Putrajaya.

She said Malaysians who voted in the 2018 general election had the right to know whether or not any new coalition government under Anwar was acceptable to them.

“Because the Sheraton Move was not something the majority of people voted for, but it happened. So if they are going to move again in the same fashion, then it must be in a way that is acceptable to the people,” Ambiga added.

She declined to comment further on her tweets, saying it was uncertain how things would turn out.

“I think they saw my tweets today.”

But even among Anwar’s allies, many appear to be in the dark about the so-called Meridien Move, including DAP strongman Lim Kit Siang, who said yesterday’s press conference caught him by surprise.

Amanah leader in the dark

The same goes for leaders from Amanah, which yesterday wasted no time expressing support for Anwar.

When contacted by MalaysiaNow and asked about the identity of Anwar’s newfound friends from Umno, Amanah vice-president Mahfuz Omar brushed aside the question.

Instead, the Pokok Sena MP said the identities of those backing Anwar did not matter.

“That’s secondary. The issue now is that Muhyiddin has lost support. Morally, it is illegal for him to remain as prime minister,” he said.

Mahfuz added that Amanah was bent on giving Anwar the opportunity to gather enough seats.

“We don’t know who the Umno MPs backing him are,” he added. “We have to wait for Anwar’s explanation at the Pakatan Harapan (PH) presidential council meeting after the Sabah state election.”

MalaysiaNow’s attempts to get reactions from other key MPs from PH, including DAP’s Tony Pua and PKR’s Maria Chin Abdulalh, another former Bersih 2.0 chairman, have failed.

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