Disputed Bersatu chairman began a ceramah circuit with the first stop in Alor Star, Kedah, yesterday to explain the toppling of the Pakatan Harapan government in late February.
The “blackout” campaign replaces the party’s original red in its hibiscus flower logo with black as a sign of protest.
Speaking after his speech, Dr Mahathir Mohamad said the presence of more than 500 Kedah Bersatu members shows that many disagree with Muhyiddin, who withdrew the party from PH in February to form PN with Barisan Nasional, PAS and Gabungan Parti Sarawak.
“We had a meeting tonight because many people are asking what is happening in Malaysian politics, so I tried to tell them the reasons,” said Dr Mahathir.
“I find many Bersatu members enthusiastic. As a symbol of their protest, they have changed the red in the party logo to black.
“They are not happy with Muhyiddin and they are eager to support the former Bersatu, not the Bersatu under Muhyiddin.”
Before his sacking from the party last month, Dr Mahathir was the sole candidate for chairman in its upcoming elections. He maintains that he is still the legitimate chairman and that his removal of party membership is illegal.
Disputed deputy president Mukhriz Mahathir opened the event. He too, has been sacked from the party.
The event was closed to journalists but was on Facebook Live
Several senior leaders and party representatives were also present, including Kubang Pasu MP Amiruddin Hamzah and former youth wing information chief Ulya Aqamah Husamudin.
Amiruddin and other MPs, Syed Saddiq Abdul Rahman (Muar) and Dr Maszlee Malik (Simpang Renggam), have also been removed from the party for sitting with the opposition bloc in Parliament.
It is understood that the Bersatu blackout campaign moves to Perak next.
This is the first time Dr Mahathir has held a talk on current developments in Malaysian politics since the collapse of the 22-month-old PH administration.
Dr Mahathir said he is confident the campaign will continue to draw good response from the Bersatu grassroots.
“Wherever we go, there are many grassroots members (who support the campaign). It is the leaders who have been bought over by Muhyiddin Yassin, or are being threatened and pressured,” he said, referring to the prime minister’s move to reward PN lawmakers with positions in government-linked companies and agencies.
Explaining further, Mahathir said former prime minister Najib Abdul Razak had been working hard to persuade the Malays to believe that DAP would destroy the community.
“Najib claimed that DAP controlled the Harapan government. That’s not true,” he said.
He also rubbished claims that DAP would have destroyed the Malays had it come into power.
Former finance minister Lim Guan Eng is smart but he and his party DAP cannot destroy the Malays, said Dr Mahathir.
“He couldn’t do anything without our approval.
“We should have realised that (the perception) was Najib’s attempt to instil fear among the Malays in his bid to topple the Pakatan Harapan (government),” he said.
Dr Mahathir pointed out that during the Harapan administration, only six ministers were from DAP.
“It’s impossible for the other 22 ministers to bow down to the six,” he said.
Dr Mahathir added that Najib had persuaded some ministers and Bersatu leaders to leave Harapan to form a government with Umno and PAS, and convinced them that Bersatu would remain in power if they did so.
“Unfortunately, there’s someone in the party who saw the opportunity to become the prime minister.
“With the separation (within the party), we had split. (Thus) we are bersatu (united) no more,” he said.
Mahathir was referring to Bersatu president Muhyiddin Yassin who is now helming the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government.
The blackout campaign began online about a month ago, with party members supporting Dr Mahathir changing their profile pictures to a blackened party logo.
Dr Mahathir said he and other sacked Bersatu members have been removed from the party’s list of election candidates despite being legitimate candidates.
“We are still Bersatu members unless the court says our removal is valid. We still consider ourselves members and want to run for office (in the Bersatu elections),” he said.
The high court has set August 7 to decide Muhyiddin’s application and the other three want to quash the summons filed by Dr Mahathir and several others against the removal of their membership.
Kedah members met after Dr Mahathir’s launch of the Bersatu Blackout campaign in Alor Star last night said many among the grassroots were confused and wanted explanations about Muhyiddin’s leadership and the change in federal government.
Jerlun division member Fazil Mat Enda said party members must be reminded of Bersatu’s founding objective – to fight kleptocracy by toppling the Barisan Nasional regime in the 2018 general election.
“The initial principle when Bersatu was formed, is to eliminate kleptocracy. We need to explain this to other grassroots members.
“This campaign needs to be continued, even if on a small scale, even if just 50 people attend our talks because it is important that the objective is achieved,” Fazil said.
He added that members must realise the change of government in late February was an issue of betrayal.
“Some Bersatu members and leaders were willing to side with kleptocrats whom the party had once opposed,” he said, referring to Umno and PAS.
“Bersatu can still be restored if the grassroots members get a real explanation of what happened,” he added.
Bukit Bendera division member Mohd Wazeer Seni Mohamad said he believed many members still supported Dr Mahathir, who was the party chairman.
The former prime minister had been the sole candidate for party chairman in upcoming elections until his membership was revoked, an act he is challenging in court.
Wazeer said Muhyiddin’s support came from division or branch leaders, but not among ordinary members.
“As long as Dr Mahathir is alive and there are still other leaders who want to oppose kleptocracy, I am confident Bersatu can be saved,” said Wazeer who drove two hours from Bukit Bendera in Penang to Alor Star for the inaugural forum last night.
Kubang Pasu youth division chief candidate Zuhail Ibrahim said many members felt a sense of injustice at PH’s downfall and the change in government.
“We joined Bersatu to oppose Umno and PAS but now they formed the government. We do not want this party to be with Umno and PAS, we don’t want to be with those who are thieves,” said the 27-year-old.
Mohd Shukor Sharir, a member from Pendang, Kedah, said he came to the forum last night to see what direction Dr Mahathir could steer the party in despite the fact he had been ejected from the party.
“I still have hopes he can lead the party again. Grassroots members are confused. Many do not support Muhyiddin, but they don’t know who to follow now.
“I hope the court decision on August 7 will be in Dr Mahathir’s favour,” the 52-year-old Shukor said.