Debate rages over Citizens’ Declaration initiative

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KUALA LUMPUR: The Citizens’ Declaration, formed by those united against Prime Minister Najib Razak’s administration saw supporters splitting hairs with pro-opposition allies over the initiative at a forum last night.

It all began when Badrul Hisham Shaharin read an excerpt from a letter by former Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim.

“Every struggle will see the rise of traitors and sycophants. Do not be indignant, brothers. Every struggle will bring us against those afraid to face the waves. Do not be disappointed,” Badrul read.

“Our focus is on toppling Umno and Barisan Nasional,” he continued.

This was immediately greeted with loud shouts of “Reformasi” by a group of people at the event who were against the Declaration.

The shouts continued, even drowning out repeated explanations by Amanah lawmaker Khalid Samad, who was a panelist at the event, that the Citizens’ Declaration will not stop efforts to topple the current administration.

The forum saw Khalid accompanied by former Bersih chairperson Ambiga Sreenevasan and former Umno Batu Kawan vice-chief Khairuddin Abu Hassan, in supporting the Declaration.

Badrul Hisham, or Chegubard, was speaking against the Declaration together with former Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) secretary-general S Arutchelvan and lawyer Haris Ibrahim.

According to Haris, he is against the Citizens’ Declaration not because he disagrees with its contents, but because he fears a possible agenda behind it to save Umno and BN.

“I do not believe in the Mahathir-led effort. It will not be able to achieve the reformation the people seek. What needs to be defeated is Umno and BN (not just Prime Minister Najib Razak). If that does not happen, neither will reformation,” he said.

Khalid criticised the dissidents’ arguments, saying that it focused on the past to the detriment of cooperation with other parties.

“He (Mahathir) does have an agenda, but that does not mean we cannot overcome it (with our own),” he said.

Arutchelvan, on the other hand, said that the Declaration had broken up Pakatan Harapan, despite its aspirations to unite those against Najib.

“Mahathir’s presence has split us. PKR and DAP have fallen apart, and so has civil society,” Arutchelvan said, criticising the effort as being rushed and only involving a small number of prominent figures.

Ambiga admitted that the Declaration was rushed, but said it was a temporary measure to defeat Najib, their common enemy.

“I do not say it (the Declaration) is perfect, but we have to do something when the nation faces a crisis. If you disagree, what then are your plans to save the nation?” she asked.

The forum lasted for over two hours and saw the debate rage to heated levels, with the organisers being forced to repeatedly call for those present to calm down.

The Citizens’ Declaration, aimed at getting Najib to step down as the PM, was launched in March.

The initiative which is spearheaded by Mahathir also saw the participation of Opposition leaders from DAP and PKR as well as members of NGOs and civil society.