Civil society didn’t change, Dr M did, says Art Harun

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PETALING JAYA: Lawyer and human rights activist Azhar “Art” Harun today refuted criticism that the opposition and civil society have abandoned their principles to back Dr Mahathir Mohamad as prime minister.

Art argued that it was actually Mahathir who has abandoned his old ways to embrace the opposition and civil society’s vision of a just and fair society.

“It is not a case of Pakatan Harapan (PH) now choosing to play to Dr M’s tune. It is the other way round,” he wrote in a Facebook post.

Mahathir was nominated as prime minister-designate by all four PH parties – PKR, DAP, Amanah and PPBM – last Sunday should the coalition win the next general election.

The choice drew sharp criticism from segments of PH supporters and was derided by Barisan Nasional (BN) leaders.

Art said the arguments against the former prime minister and PH chairman were “imprecise and in fact downright wrong”.

He reminded that Mahathir, together with opposition parties and civil society, had signed the Malaysian Citizen Declaration on March 4, 2016.

“Even Mahfuz Omar, then a PAS MP, and PAS elections director Datuk Mustafa Ali attended the event. Of course, PAS did not sign it as it was not interested in correcting wrongs any more by then.”

The main points of the declarations were the removal of Najib Razak as prime minister through non-violent and legally permissible means and the removal of all those who had acted in concert with him.

Other declarations included the repeal of all recent laws and agreements that violated the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Federal Constitution, and the restoration of the integrity of institutions such as the police, Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, Bank Negara and the Public Accounts Committee.

Art said more than one million people signed the declarations between March 4 and May 13, 2016.

“Has any of the declarations been abandoned by the opposition, civil society and the more than one million Malaysians? No.

“These objectives are still maintained. And they are still being pursued by the opposition as well as civil society.

“It is Dr Mahathir who has abandoned his ways.

“By signing those declarations, he is the one who has abandoned whatever policies that he had maintained those days and adopted the opposition’s and civil society’s vision of a just and fair society and return true democracy to Malaysia.

“It is not a case of Pakatan Harapan now choosing to play to Dr M’s tune. It is the other way round.”