Dr Mahathir Mohamad is confident that the “Save Malaysia” movement will have enough support to pressure the country’s traditional rulers to act against Prime Minister Najib Razak.
Speaking at Save Malaysia’s first people’s congress held behind closed doors on Sunday (Mar 27), Dr Mahathir said he is confident that the movement will collect 1 million signatures before the end of the year.
The 90-year-old statesman has been leading the campaign to oust the prime minister, saying it is in order save the country from becoming a failed state. Dr Mahathir earlier this month cobbled together an unlikely alliance of former political foes including former government and opposition leaders, as well as civil rights activists to form the movement.
While the consensus was to remove Mr Najib, whom they blame for the country's institutional breakdown, there were also heightened calls for the release of jailed opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim.
Former bar council president Ambiga Sreenevasan stressed that it was high time for a reset in the country’s political system and urged government leaders and civil servants to come on board.
“If you turn your back on us, you may save yourself but if you stand with us, you can help save the nation for your children and grandchildren. I invite all, particularly those in power, to join us and be on the right side of history,” she told the congress, which attracted about 2,000 participants.
But few government leaders have spoken up so far, and those who dare to face expulsion from their party.
Dr Mahathir quit UMNO last month after he failed to gather enough support from within the ruling party to oust party president Najib. He is now urging the people to sign the Save Malaysia petition in order to step up pressure on Mr Najib.
Said Dr Mahathir: "People are afraid to sign because this government frightens people. They arrest the people but they cannot take action against 1 million people, can they?"
The Save Malaysia movement has collected more than 140,000 signatures since its launch on Mar 4.