THE past month has seen the uprising of voices aligned to the REFORMASI movement, in the same outspoken pitch that rocked the streets following Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s sacking as Deputy Prime Minister in 1998, followed by his incarceration.
Dissimilar to the initial incarnation of the movement that had evolved into both a divisive subject in Malaysian politics and a picture of a unified, multiracial front against the establishment, is the fact that this time the key figures mirror a seemingly growing resentment of the masses towards government policies deviated from the reforms pledged en route to the seat gained on May 9, 2018.
This time, Reformasi could be deemed as fighting the government they are partly responsible for installing instead of the government that kicked them out in 1998.
While institutional reforms, former Anwar aide Datuk Ezam Mohd Noor claims, have been clearly relegated down the list of priorities, while unfulfilled key election promises are the subject of discontentment among the masses, that the subject of Anwar not being handed the Prime Ministership by Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad on schedule as promised, as far as the Reformists movement is concerned, is the last straw.
Ezam, who has been living in Indonesia post-2018 elections, returned at the start of the year to launch his own roadshow, rallying the reformist movement back into action in calling for the government to buck up, in particular Dr Mahathir to keep his promise.
In his talks at different venues across the Peninsula, Ezam also voices out strong allegations of a plot by PKR Deputy President Datuk Seri Azmin Ali, Umno’s Semberong MP Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein and Dr Mahathir’s son Tan Sri Mokhzani Mahathir to deny Anwar’s the Prime Minister’s post.
“This is the elitist group. Prior to the elections, I had decided to help Azmin, as he requested and we needed to defend Selangor. At the time, he had performed well as Menteri Besar for the state, so I agreed,” said Ezam.
“But I had warned Azmin to stay away from this person called Hishammuddin because I know how close they were. Now you can see what is going on.
“It is normal for opposing parties not agreeing with PKR, but here we have the deputy president being so outspoken and not agreeing to his president becoming Prime Minister. Don’t you sense something abnormal?”
Echoed among Reformists at their now more frequent gatherings is the belief that the prevalence of such instances and the unclear path as per dates that Dr Mahathir would hand over the reigns to Anwar point to another promise set to be unfulfilled, and voices need to be raised to ensure this happens, including street protests.
“We have fought for 20 years. This is a Reformasi government. But do you see reforms? I can tell you. I only see a dictator back to his old ways. And a dictator is always in opposition of reforms. He will not step down,” said Ezam.
Their main demands are for Dr Mahathir to set with clarity a pathway towards the handing over of power, preferably by May 10.
“Even his statement for an extension until after the APEC Summit in November, does not provide any clarity. After APEC, but when? There is no set date. Is it five days after the APEC Summit? Five months? Five years?” quipped Shahbudin Husin, blogger and author of the book “Anwar PM8”.
“I believe this is just an effort to prolong his reign. Because it really does not matter to the APEC Summit whether he is Prime Minister or not,” Shahbudin added.
While outside reformist forums these claims, for the moment, add to the fodder in online debates, among those occupying the growing attendances of these forums, mainly of middle-aged, working class and multiracial in disposition, the thought of going back to the streets isn’t exactly a far fetched idea.
In fact, the reformists consistently share their set demands for Dr Mahathir to hand over the reigns by May 10 and it is far from uncommon to hear calls for the movement to hit the streets should this deadline not be met.
“We do not want to be at loggerheads with Dr Mahathir. But if he does not stick to the agreement, we may just have to do what we have to do,” said Ezam.
This all happens while Anwar himself has this week called for a halt to pressure on Dr Mahathir, stating that he could wait until November to take over.
“Anwar has the patience. But you must remember, Reformasi is not about Anwar. It is about the people and Anwar is the appointee to carry out the much delayed reforms for the people,” said Ezam.
“They (the elites) fear this. Because it would end their stranglehold on power and the riches derived from it. It would bring and end to their empires.”