‘Save Malaysia’ no traction in Sarawak, analysts say

KUALA LUMPUR, April 11 — Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s “Save Malaysia” movement is likely to have little or no impact at all on Barisan Nasional’s (BN) chances in the Sarawak polls as the campaign to unseat Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak is driven by peninsula-based issues, analysts said.

The political observers also said although Sarawak voters still hold Dr Mahathir in high regard, the elder statesman and his motley crew of supporters from the federal opposition have largely left the hornbill state out of their Save Malaysia playbook.

This has left Sarawakians thinking the movement and the Citizens’ Declaration against Najib are promoting issues of little concern to them, Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas) associate professor Dr Neilson Ilan Mersat said.

“Even though the Citizens’ Declaration was made a few weeks ago, we don’t really feel it here because it seems to be targeting KL folk,” he told Malay Mail Online.

He said Sarawakians are aware that Dr Mahathir has struck an unusual alliance with his political foes to start Save Malaysia but still expressed doubt that this would translate to mean much in the coming state election.

“People know it is something big, since he is sitting with people who were his political nemeses. But then I am also interested to see if they would bring the movement here,” he added.

Unimas associate professor Dr Jeniri Amir said, however, even if “Save Malaysia” decided to spread its wings to Sarawak, voters would not likely get so easily caught up in the agenda to remove Najib as prime minister.

He said Sarawak voters were more concerned about bread and butter issues, and stories about corruption involving Umno politicians from the peninsula may not change how they cast their votes.

“I don’t think there is any positive sentiment towards Dr Mahathir. This is regarded as Umno affairs, and people here don’t like Umno,” he told Malay Mail Online.

“Even if they come to Sarawak, local issues are still the priority. The 1MDB and RM2.6 billion donation issues are too abstract for the rural voters with lower political literacy,” he added.

The Citizens’ Declaration seeks Najib’s removal over his handling of controversies like the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) affair and the RM2.6 billion political donation found in the prime minister’s accounts.

Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) associate professor Dr Mohd Faisal Syam Abdol Hazis said, however, that if Dr Mahathir personally joins the opposition’s campaign for Sarawak, BN may have reason to fear ceding votes.

“Dr Mahathir can be a factor in the Sarawak elections if he is going to campaign for the opposition, especially in the marginal seats. The man will be a crowd-puller,” he told Malay Mail Online.

“He could campaign against Prime Minister Najib in the urban seats and relate that by voting BN or (chief minister) Tan Sri Adenan Satem, Sarawakians will be voting Najib as well.”

The Save Malaysia movement is led by Dr Mahathir and supported by former Barisan Nasional leaders, opposition parties and civil society members.

Leaders of the movement recently announced plan to embark on a nationwide “roadshow” in hopes of getting hundreds of thousands of signatures for their petition seeking Najib’s resignation.

The Sarawak state legislative assembly will be dissolved today, with the state election for 82 seats required to be held within 60 days from now.

The Election Commission has not fixed the nomination and polling date for this year’s Sarawak election that will be carried out with a budget of RM135 million, but Sarawak Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem has indicated his preference for polls to be held on April 30.- MMO