Wednesday, 30 March 2016


CLICK HERE: From  The Straits Times (Singapore) 

Essay  by

Former Permanent Secretary for Foreign Affairs
Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Singapore
(Currentlty Ambassador-at-Large)

 6 OCTOBER, 2015

Malaysia is undergoing a systemic change that has profound consequences for Singapore.

What do most Singaporeans make of recent events in Malaysia? Bersih. Pesaka. 1MDB. A Deputy Prime Minister sacked. Protests and counter-protests.

Are we so inured to commotions across the Causeway that they seem no more than the faint tolling of distant bells, evoking only bemusement and schadenfreude? Our system works, so shrug and tend our own garden.

If this is the attitude, it is mistaken. We are indeed different. But I believe Malaysia may be on the cusp of a systemic change that could have profound implications for us.

Since 1957, first Malaya then Malaysia, was premised on a political and social compact that had Malay dominance as its cardinal principle. So long as this was not challenged, other races could have their own space. In political terms, this compact was reflected in a system structured around an alliance of race-based political parties with the dominant Malay party – United Malays National Organisation or UMNO – at its centre.

The Chinese were represented by the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA), later joined by Gerakan; the Indians by the Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC). Two opposition parties, the Democratic Action Party (DAP) and Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS), were in principle multiracial, but in practice largely Chinese and Malay and in any case were peripheral.

It was our refusal to accept the system’s cardinal principle that led to Separation from Malaysia in 1965. But it was a system that had its own coherence and until relatively recently, it did not serve Malaysia badly. And despite the complexities of bilateral relations and occasional periods of tension, over the last 50 years, it was a system we learnt to work with, while going our own way.

Pressure Point–Religion

That familiar system is now under immense stress. It is not certain that it can hold together.The pressure point is religion. Arab influences from the Middle East have for several decades steadily eroded the Malay variant of Islam in which adat or traditional practices coexisted with the Quran in a syncretic, tolerant synthesis, replacing it with a more austere and exclusive interpretation of Islam. This is one aspect of a broader process of globalisation which is a sociocultural and not just an economic phenomenon. It has changed the texture of Malaysian society, I think irreversibly.

It is impossible for any country to insulate itself from globalisation. Religion in Singapore is not immune from globalisation’s consequences, and not just in our Muslim community. Evangelical Christianity is one example. But Singapore is organised on the principle of multiracial meritocracy. So long as this is accepted by all races and religions as the foundation of our identity, the most corrosive political effects are mitigated. In the Singapore system, God – every God – and Caesar are separate and so all Gods must perforce co-exist, with the state playing the role of neutral arbiter.

Not so in Malaysia. The cardinal principle of Malay dominance is enshrined in the Constitution, which also places Islam as the first component in the definition of a Malay. This makes the mixture of religion and politics well-nigh inevitable. Umno politicians have been unable to resist the temptation to use religion for electoral advantage. They are responding to the logic of the system as it has evolved.

In 2001, former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad made a fundamental political error when he tried to undercut PAS by declaring that Malaysia was already an Islamic state. A constitutional controversy ensued. But the most damaging consequences were political not legal. Tun Dr Mahathir’s incautious declaration gave a sharper political focus to the changes in the interpretation of Islam that were under way and catalysed a competitive dynamic in which those inclined to religious moderation were inevitably outbid and overwhelmed.

The result has been an increasingly pronounced emphasis on religion in UMNO’s political identity and a significant and continuing narrowing of the political and social space for non-Muslims.

Surveys show that Malaysian Malays privilege Islamic credentials over other qualities they look for in their leaders. A Merdeka Centre survey this year revealed that 60 per cent of Malaysian Malays polled identified themselves as Muslims first rather than Malaysians or even Malays. Demography accentuates the political impact of these attitudes. In 1957 the Chinese constituted 45 per cent of Malaya (West Malaysia). In 2010, they constituted only 24.6 per cent of Malaysia including East Malaysia. Malay fertility rates are significantly higher than both Chinese and Indians.

In the 2013 Malaysian General Election, the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition got only 13 per cent of the Chinese vote. Two days after the election, Utusan Malaysia, an UMNO mouthpiece, pointedly asked “Apa Lagi Cina Mau?” (What more do the Chinese want?)

The question was provocatively phrased, but not entirely unreasonable. Prime Minister Najib Razak tried hard to win back Chinese votes but got almost nothing for his efforts. MCA won only seven seats. Gerakan was wiped out. The DAP won 38 seats, the largest number in the opposition coalition.

A new system in the making?

The Chinese parties in BN had clearly lost the trust of Chinese voters. Can MCA win back Chinese votes? Doubtful. MCA is obviously powerless to stem the narrowing political and social space for non-Muslims; the fecklessness of its leaders exposed by constant scandals and internal bickering.

In 2013, BN lost the popular vote but retained its parliamentary majority because of the 47 seats it won in East Malaysia. Native East Malaysians are not ethnically Malay but are classified as bumiputera. Some in UMNO began to question whether it was really necessary to work with the Chinese at all. The declining numbers of Chinese in the Malaysian population will sooner or later make them electorally irrelevant to Umno and BN had already retained power without their votes.

Nor can the opposition coalition of the DAP, PAS and Anwar Ibrahim’s Parti Keadilan Rakyat – Pakatan Rakyat (PR) – form a new multiracial system. PR was always a motley crew. Although its component parties are in theory multiracial, they have nothing in common except the ambition to displace BN. Only Anwar’s charismatic personality and political skills held them uneasily together.

Anwar is now in jail and PR has fallen apart. PAS has left. Without Anwar, Keadilan’s future is bleak. The DAP is subject to the demo- graphic constraints of a falling Chinese population and is unlikely to make substantial electoral advances beyond its present strength, although it will probably retain what it now holds. PR’s successor – Pakatan Harapan – a coalition of the DAP, Keadilan and a minor breakaway faction from PAS, is a forlorn hope (pun intended).

PAS has purged its moderate leadership and is now led by the ulama. UMNO is increasingly relying on religion to legitimise itself. UMNO and PAS may eventually form some sort of de facto if not de jure alliance that could be the core of a new ruling system. There may be token ornaments of other races, but the Malaysian system will then comprise an overwhelmingly dominant Malay government with a DAP-led Chinese opposition. This will be potentially explosive.

I do not know if such a system will really replace the current system, but it certainly seems possible, even probable. It will not happen overnight. But the controversy over 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) could well hasten its emergence. The recent demonstrations seem to foreshadow such a development.

Struggle for Power in UMNO

The anti-government Bersih demonstrations held in late August this year (2015) were, despite a sprinkling of other races, predominantly Chinese affairs. PAS, which had joined previous Bersih demonstrations, stayed away. The organisers claimed the demonstrations were apolitical, but the DAP with Keadilan clearly played significant roles.

Last month, a pro-government counter-demonstration was organised by Pesaka – a right-wing Malay group ostensibly devoted to silat, the Malay martial art. The demonstration was almost entirely Malay, positioned as defending Malay rights and marked by fierce racial rhetoric. Before the demonstration, posters were displayed, captioned “Cina turun Bersih, sedialah bermandi darah” (Chinese who attend Bersih, be ready to be bathed in blood) which depicted a Bersih supporter being slashed with a parang. A flier with a similar slogan was found at DAP headquarters.

UMNO denied organising the demonstration. Dato’Seri Najib did not attend but said he had no objections to Umno members doing so. The President of Pesaka is an UMNO leader. Another UMNO politician, who was one of the driving forces of the Pesaka demonstration, proudly admitted he was racist because it was under the Constitution.

Thankfully, violence at these demonstrations was avoided by the strong police presence. But the demonstrations certainly raised the temperature of an already racially fraught atmosphere.

Although the authorities denied it, the affray that broke out in July at Low Yat Plaza, a mainly Chinese shopping area in Kuala Lumpur, after a Malay youth was accused of stealing a mobile phone, was certainly racial. It exposed the tinderbox Malaysia had become.

Shortly after news broke about US$700 million (S$1 billion) believed to be from 1MBD being traced to what was alleged to be Mr Najib’s personal account, a Putrajaya spokesman said: “The Prime Minister has not taken any funds for personal use.”

UMNO has always operated through a system of patronage. If this is what the spokesman was hinting at, then Dr Mahathir’s accusations against Mr Najib ring hollow. Did he not preside over the same system and for far longer than any other Malaysian prime minister?

This system also means that Mr. Najib is in no imminent danger of being forced from office so long as he holds the majority of UMNO divisions and retains Malay support. Frustration may account for Dr Mahathir’s attendance at the Bersih demonstration which I do not think has raised the good doctor’s standing with the Malay ground.

The 1MDB scandal is less about corruption than about a struggle for power within UMNO. Dr Mahathir seems to have expected to exercise remote control even though he was no longer prime minister. Among his grievances with his successors were their warming of ties with Singapore, Mr Najib’s decision to settle the railway land issue, cooperation on Iskandar Malaysia (IM) and the refusal of both Tun Abdullah Badawi and Mr Najib to proceed with his pet white elephant: the “crooked bridge”. Dr Mahathir wants to replace Mr Najib with someone more pliable.

The intra-UMNO power struggle is not over. Mr Najib retains his office but has been politically damaged. Dr Mahathir’s reputation may have been dented, but he still has a following within UMNO and the Malay public.

Mr. Najib cannot allow himself to be outflanked on the right. Two days after the September demonstration, he attended a Pesaka gathering. He praised Pesaka members as being “willing to die” for the government and said “Malay people can also show that we are still able to rise when our dignity is challenged, when our leaders are insulted, criticised, shamed”, adding, “We respect other races. But don’t forget: Malays also have their feelings. Malays also have their limits.”

What next?

A former minister, Tan Sri Zainuddin Maidin, has said that “if Najib succeeds in uniting UMNO and PAS, then I am confident the Malays will forgive his grave mistakes”, adding that “after fulfilling this large and sincere task” he should step down and hand power to former deputy prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin.

I do not know if Mr. Najib feels he has committed “grave mistakes”. But he certainly will not hand over power to a man he unceremoniously sacked. Still, Mr Zainuddin is probably not wrong about anyone who brings UMNO and PAS together becoming a Malay hero. It may not be Mr. Najib, but the trajectory of political developments in Malaysia already seems to point in that direction.

Malaysia and Singapore are each other’s second-largest trading partner. Malaysia is Singapore’s sixth-largest investment destination and we are the top investor in IM. Every day tens of thousands of Malaysians commute across the Causeway to work in Singapore. It is in our interest to see Malaysia stable with a healthy economy.

Mr. Najib understands that Malaysia and Singapore need each other. So far and unusually we have not figured very much in the controversies. Dr Mahathir did trot out his tired line about Singapore Malays being marginalised. But it did not catch fire. Did the government dampen the spark? No way of knowing for sure but if it did, it is one more black mark against Mr Najib in the old man’s book.

We, of course, have no choice but to work with whatever system or leader emerges in Malaysia. But some systems will be easier to work with than others. And the current heightened state of racial tensions suggests that we should not assume that the transition from one system to another will necessarily be peaceful.

It is my impression that many young Malaysian Chinese have forgotten the lessons of May 13, 1969. They naively believe that the system built around the principle of Malay dominance can be changed. That may be why they abandoned MCA for the DAP. They are delusional. Malay dominance will be defended by any means.

Any new system will still be built around this principle, and if it has some form of UMNO-PAS collaboration at its centre, enforcement of this principle will be even more rigorous with even less space for non-Muslims.
The respected Malay poet and writer Pak Samad recently warned “the way race issues are played up… it is not impossible that things will peak into a state of emergency”.

Pak Samad is a member of the DAP and he was appealing to the government to take a more equitable attitude towards all races. But his views and those of some idealistic young urban Malays are exceptional and, during an intra-UMNO power struggle when the banner of Malay dominance is raised particularly high, utterly irrelevant.

Singaporeans should also note that no country’s domestic politics exists in a geopolitical vacuum.

Chinese Ambassador’s Remarks

In the midst of these unfolding developments, China’s Ambassador to Malaysia made his way to Kuala Lumpur’s Chinatown. Close to where only a few days previously the police had to use water cannons to disperse a potentially violent anti-Chinese Pesaka-led demonstration, the ambassador read out a statement that among other things pronounced the Chinese government’s opposition to terrorism, any form of racial discrimination and extremism, adding for good measure that it would be a shame if the peace of Petaling Street was disrupted by the ill-intentioned and that Beijing would not stand idly by if anything threatened the interests of its citizens and Malaysia-China relations.

Under other circumstances these sentiments would perhaps have passed notice. But the timing and context laid the Ambassador’s words and actions open to disquieting interpretations.

Was it just bad judgment? What was he trying to do? If the ambassador was trying to help the Malaysian Chinese, then he failed miserably. He probably made things worse for them by confirming the worst suspicions of the Malay right wing.

But were the interests of Malaysian Chinese even a consideration? Was the intention to highlight a rising China’s clout? The Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman defended the ambassador’s visit to Petaling Street as “normal” and emphasised China’s adherence to the principle of non-interference. But this was of course what she would have said irrespective of China’s intentions.

More telling perhaps was the apparent confusion over whether or not the Chinese ambassador should be summoned to explain himself. This should have been obvious. A retired Malaysian diplomat who used to deal with China pointed out the dangerous precedent that would be set if no action was taken. But different Malaysian ministers contradicted each other, with a clearly frustrated Foreign Minister Anifah Aman finally telling them all to leave it to Wisma Putra.

Was this the consequence of China’s influence? Possibly. In the end, some sort of meeting with Wisma Putra seems to have occurred. Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi subsequently announced that the Malaysian Cabinet decided to “call in” the Chinese ambassador (he was careful to make clear the ambassador was not being “summoned”).

Lesson for Singapore

We cannot solve other people’s problems. Malaysians must work out their own destiny and we will have to live with their choices.

Are we completely immune to contagion from Malaysia? After 50 years, does our collective Singapore identity now trump racial identities? Maybe under some circumstances. Optimistically, perhaps even most circumstances. But under all circumstances?

I doubt it. Let us wish Malaysia well and hope that the worst does not occur.But it would be prudent to take no chances and prepare ourselves as if it might. The first step is for all Singaporeans to understand what is happening in our neighbourhood and realistically appreciate our own circumstances.

Deterrence and diplomacy are necessary to reduce the temptation that some in Malaysia may have to externalise their problems and minimise the bilateral friction that will sometimes be unavoidable. Strong deterrence and agile diplomacy must be underpinned by national cohesion which in turn rests on a foundation of common understandings.

Of late it seems to have become fashionable for some sections of our intelligentsia to downplay or even dismiss our vulnerabilities. Some political parties tried variants of this line during our recent General Election. Are they blind and deaf to what is happening around us? Is their desire for notoriety or political advantage so overwhelming as to make them indifferent to the consequences?

Malaysia is not the only concern. The haze is a daily reminder that all is not well down south too. This is not the most salubrious of neighbourhoods.


Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Sorry Folks, Here’s Why Lim Guan Eng & Khir Toyo’s Bungalow Scandals Aren’t Similar


Lim Guan Eng (LGE), if he’s a kopitiam boss or a roast pork seller, would not get the attention (and trouble) he’s getting now. In fact, nobody would care that he had struck a good deal getting himself a bungalow for RM2.8 million – a crazy discount to market value. At 10,161 square feet, his bungalow in Jalan Pinhorn, Penang, was a steal at RM276 per square foot.

Unfortunately, Mr. Lim is no ordinary Chinese Ah Pek but the Penang Chief Minister. The worse part – he’s the leader of an opposition party DAP (Democratic Action Party) who commands 90% of Chinese votes. Therefore, whenever he buys or sells something, the price must be “ngam-ngam (precise)”. He can neither buy a bungalow below nor above market price.
Lim Guan Eng - Penang Chief Minister
If he buys a real estate “below” market price, then he is being rewarded for helping the seller on certain project. If he buys a property “above” market price, then he is cleaning dirty money through money laundering. That’s how the perception game is being played. Heads Guan Eng loses, tails Guan Eng also loses. This is madness, is it not?

In other words, Lim Guan Eng can never own a bungalow worth millions. Unless he switches sides to UMNO, he can only rent a bungalow or buy a condominium within his financial means. That’s because condominium should roughly fetch the same price within the same block, unless heavily renovated, unlike a bungalow sitting on a 10,161 square feet plot of land.
Lim Guan Eng Bungalow – RM2.8 Million (Jalan Pinhorn, Penang)
In the same breath, Mr. Lim would get himself into trouble too if he plans to buy some properties through “lelong (auction)”, a normal process conducted by banks to get rid of real estates seized from past owners who couldn’t pay their scheduled mortgage loan. Again, he must ensure the price he bids for lelong properties must be “ngam-ngam” (*grin*).

Apparently, the seller of the bungalow, Miss Phang Li Koon, has signed a SD (Statutory Declaration) to relieve pressure on Lim Guan Eng. It seems the seller was a great admirer and supporter of Mr. Lim. She was also a close friend of the Chief Minister’s wife, Betty Chew. So, it was a “goodwill sale”after the Lim family rented the bungalow since 2009 at RM5,000 per month.
Penang Bungalow Scandal - Lim Guan Eng and Phang Li Koon
There’re 1,001 reasons why Guan Eng could buy the controversial bungalow for RM2.8 million, well below market price, if he was an ordinary folk. The bungalow could be haunted. Miss Phang has a crush on him. Betty Chew was a world class haggler she often gets free McDonald’s meal. Miss Phang was so touch because Guan Eng has taken care of the bungalow – polishing and waxing toilets daily.

The Penang Chief Minister claimed that he had bought his bungalow on a“willing buyer-willing-seller” basis. After all, it was a 30-year-old bungalow with “no” swimming pool (*grin*). He took a bank loan of RM2.1 million and paid the remaining RM700,000 in cash based on his income as the chief minister and an elected representative.
Lim Guan Eng Bungalow – RM2.8 Million (Jalan Pinhorn, Penang) - Interior
But that was exactly what had happened to former Selangor Chief Minister Khir Toyo, screamed UMNO politicians and bloggers. Mr. Khir had used “willing buyer-willing-seller” argument to justify his purchase of two plots of land and a bungalow in Shah Alam below market price. Still, he had failed to convince judges and was sentenced for 12 months behind bars.

Using Khir Toyo’s case as a yardstick, Lim Guan Eng should therefore go to prison too. Actually Khir could be saved by UMNO and need not go to jail. However, he was one of Mahathir’s boys so when Badawi and Najib took over, he was flushed out of favour. And when he lost the Selangor state in the 2008 national election, he was of no use to UMNO.
Khir Toyo’s Bungalow – RM3.5 Million (Shah Alam, Selangor)
That was why Khir was officially charged in 2010. That was why out of hundreds of UMNO leaders who purchased bungalow below market price or even given free by businessmen, only Khir was charged. That was why UMNO didn’t instruct judges to close one eye on Khir’s case, as they normally would. But how different was Khir Toyo’s bungalow scandal to Lim Guan Eng’s?

  1. Ditamas Sdn Bhd director, Shamsuddin Hayroni, bought his bungalow at RM5 million, excluding renovation cost of RM1.5 million, but sold the renovated property to Khir Toyo at lower price of RM3.5 million. On the other hand, Miss Phang Li Koon bought her bungalow in 2008 for RM2.5 million and sold it to Guan Eng for RM2.8 million. Shamsuddin sold it for a 46% loss while Miss Phang sold it for a 12% profit.
  2. Shamsuddin admitted that he had sold his two plots of land and a bungalow at a price of RM3.5 million to Khir Toyo for fear of jeopardizing his housing projects in Selangor. Miss Phang signed a SD and admitted she sold her property out of fear of Barisan Nasional’s constant demonstration, harassment and stress instead.
  3. Shamsuddin admitted he personally did not agree with the RM3.5 million price wanted by Khir Toyo and told him the property should be at least between RM5 million to RM5.5 million. On the other hand, Miss Phang was honoured and happy to sell her bungalow to Lim Guan Eng and his family for RM2.8 million, due to respect.
  4. By their own admissions, Shamsuddin had a business relationship with Khir through PKNS. On the other side, Miss Phang (through her SD) and Mr. Lim announced they have no business relationship whatsoever.
  5. In his capacity as PKNS Chairman, Khir Toyo had admitted to giving aletter of support to Ditamas Sdn Bhd director, Shamsuddin Hayroni, who bids for PKNS projects. In her SD, Miss Phang denied the allegations of being a director or shareholder of KLIDC company which has successfully bid for the Taman Manggis land. Additionally, Taman Manggis land was sold for RM11 million through “open tender”, not to mention Mr. Lim wasn’t part of the tender committee.
Shah Alam Bungalow Scandal - Khir Toyo and Shamsuddin Hayroni
It would be extremely stupid for Lim Guan Eng, an accountant, to get himself into corruption in the purchase of the bungalow, knowing very well Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) and the rest of the government agencies are eyeing his every single move. There’s simply no case against him because he had taken all the necessary precautions to prevent from being trapped or implicated.

Khir Toyo was found guilty primarily because what the courts did not look kindly upon was the fact that the said property was bought (by Khir) at a lower price, compared with the much higher price when the property was purchased by (seller) Shamsuddin Hayroni. So the keyword here is purchase price andselling priceNOT market price.
Former Selangor Chief Minister Khir Toyo and Wife
Shamsuddin’s selling price to Mr. Khir was “lower” than his purchase price. Miss Phang’s selling price to Mr. Lim was “higher” than her purchase price. Both Shamsuddin and Miss Phang sold their properties below market price though. In short, Shamsuddin made a terrible 46% loss while Miss Phang made a not so handsome 12% profit.

But as long as Miss Phang didn’t make any losses selling her bungalow, judges may find it hard to compare Guan Eng’s case to Khir Toyo’s. She had made a cool RM300,000 or 12% profit on his investment of RM2.5 million on the property. And based on her SD, it was clear there were elements of goodwill, respect and gratitude due to Guan Eng’s administration of Penang.
Phang Li Koon and Shamsuddin Hayroni - Profit and Loss Comparison
There’s no law that says one cannot sell real estates at below “market price”, as long as one doesn’t sell it at a loss – below “purchase price” – without a compelling reason. There’s little doubt that “willing buyer-willing-seller” applies in Lim Guan Eng’s bungalow transaction but not Khir Toyo’s. Perhaps UMNO doesn’t understand how Chinese do business.

As far as Miss Phang is concerned, the sale was still a good deal because she didn’t lose money. She just made less profit. Not all business deals must be done with maximum profit. That’s why IT Mall, Low Yat Plaza, is doing a roaring and long-term business despite making lesser profit margin than UMNO-sponsored MARA Digital Mall.
Malaysian IGP Khali Abu Bakar - Lim Guan Eng and Phang Li Koon - Bungalow Scandal
What Najib administration has, however, is the indirect link between Lim Guan Eng and Miss Phang Li Koon. And you can bet your last penny that UMNO will use its usual tactics – threat, intimidate, harass, bribe – on the Chinese woman until she changes her SD, the same way private investigator Balasubramanim and his wife did on the Altantuya murder scandal.

Sunday, 27 March 2016


Live report from Malaysiakini staff

DATED: 27 MARCH 2016

Whether today's gathering will bring about change remains to be seen. But today’s proceedings starting 2pm at the Shah Alam Convention Centre (SACC) is undoubtedly unprecedented.

Dr Mahathir Mohamad and several Umno leaders take to stage with members of the opposition and civil society once again for today's People's Congress 2pm at the Shah Alam Convention Centre (SACC) in an unprecedented rally.
Former deputy prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin, former Kedah menteri besar Mukhriz Mahathir and PKR deputy president Azmin Ali will be among the 19 lined up to speak

6.30pm: As he wraps up his speech, Mahathir says he would even drive a lorry to bring the Citizens' Declaration to the palace.
"Earlier someone (Mukhriz) said I will drive a lorry. I can drive a car but if the lorry has that thing (declaration), I will drive it...
"I want to show to the palace the rakyat's sentiments towards Najib," he says.
Throughout his speech, Mahathir took numerous broad shots at Najib, Rosmah and their supporters.
The Save Malaysia gathering ends at 6.30pm with a press conference by Mahathir and the leaders.
This concludes Malaysiakini's LIVE coverage of the congress.
6pm: Mahathir takes to the stage as the final speaker to cries of "Reformasi!" - the same word chanted by anti-Mahathir activists during the 1998 Reformasi protests.
Mahathir recalls that he was jumping for joy when Abdullah Badawi appointed Najib as his successor.
"This is Tun Razak's son...he must be like his father. But unfortunately he is 'a bit' different," says Mahathir, when the audience shouted "a lot!".
Mahathir says he even quit Umno for the first time to push for Najib's appointment, as he is indebted to Tun Razak who had similarly appointed him as prime minister.
After Najib was appointed, Mahathir says he began to realise that Najib actions did not fit that of a prime minister.
"He (Najib) likes to use money to gain popularity...This is bribery, corruption.
"Buying the people's support by giving away money...not his money, our money!" he stresses.
Mahathir also repeats his claims of Najib "worshipping money" above all else and saying that "cash is king."
Mahathir also condemns those around Najib as being on his payroll, using the now popular term, 'pemakan dedak' (literally, those eating animal feed).
Muhyiddin regrets helping to oust Pak Lah
5.30pm: Suspended Umno number two Muhyiddin Yassin starts his speech by saying he never dreamt of a day when he will be sitting next to Lim Kit Siang.
"Maybe now the time has come for mature politics in Malaysia. We are no longer bound by ideology or history.
"We have reached a state that requires us to unite and save Malaysia," he says.
Muhyiddin says that while he may not be wearing the same shirt as Mukhriz, they both belong to the same group of those who were shunned in Umno.
The Pagoh MP also quips that he regrets pushing for former premier Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's resignation after BN's dismal performance in the 2008 general elections.
"At that time there was no calls for my sacking from the party...We only want the prime minister to step down.
"His replacement will be decided by BN and Umno...that is the reality."
Azmin: We suffered under Dr M, but this is for the future
5.20pm: PKR deputy president Azmin Ali says the opposition and civil society leaders who signed the declaration have faced many tribulation under an oppresive system, including during Mahathir's premiership.
"We have been victims. Before Anwar was arrested (in 1998), I was arrested first...The home minister at the time was Mahathir.
"It is okay. That is history. We want to be a better person, not a bitter person.
"I want to be a better person because a bitter person will complain about the past but a better person will take positive steps for the future," the Selangor Menteri Besar says.
Mukhriz's flesh and blood is Umno
4.45pm: Former Kedah menteri besar Mukhriz Mahathir says after signatures for the declaration are collected, they will be summitted to the council of rulers.
“Mahathir said he will collect the signatures, place them on a lorry and he himself will drive the lorry.
“But I’m not sure whether his license is still valid or otherwise,” says Mukhriz jokingly about his 90-year-old father.
4.30pm: Mukhriz says he stands on stage still wearing the red colour Umno uniform.
Someone in the audience shouted, "Buka!" (Take it off!).
"My flesh and blood is Umno...It is not so easy for me to change," says Mukhriz.
"I know there are many Umno members in this hall but they are not wearing the uniform."
He also repeats his stand that the Save Malaysia movement is to replace Najib with another Umno prime minister.
4.20pm: PKR vice-president Rafizi Ramli describes the crowd as being "weird and diverse".
Among others, he says he shares the same alma mater as Umno veteran Sanusi Junid and the same lawyer as Ling Liong Sik.
"I'm sure there are also many here whom I had blocked on Twitter...," he quips.
Rafizi, as such, says he will only focus his attention on Najib and his wife Rosmah Mansor.
"I will not disturb you if you don't take the rakyat's money!"
Rafizi repeats his pledge to disclose Official Secrets Act (OSA) documents linked to the Armed Forces Fund (LTAT) at the Pakatan Harapan rally in Ampang Jaya tomorrow.
Ambiga thanks Najib for uniting foes
4.10pm: The next speaker is Hakam president Ambiga Sreenevasan. As she gets on stage, someone in the audience shouts, "Buat Bersih 5!" (Organise Bersih 5).
In her speech, Ambiga reiterates, "Enough is enough!" to Najib's rule.
At the same time, she also urges for a discussion on jailed former opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim's release.
"He has suffered enough. His family has suffered enough," she stresses.
Ambiga also sarcastically thanks Najib for uniting the people from varying sides of the political fence.
"Oppression unites the people against the oppressor," she points out.
'Save M'sia not threat to Malays'
4pm: Amanah deputy president Salahuddin Ayub stresses the Save Malaysia agenda is not one that is out to destroy the Malays.
He also cites a popular anecdote of travellers who had commented they found Islamic values in Western countries, when the same is lacking in Muslim majority countries.
"In Norway we can be safe, but here, we go to the mosque and our shoes can go missing," he points out.
Salahuddin also reminds the Malays that their rights are well protected under the federal constitution.
"We want good Malays, good Chinese, good Indians, good jabatan (civil service) leaders.
"Good Malay leader like (Malaysia's second PM) Abdul Razak, good Chinese leaders like (Malaysia's first trade minister) Tan Siew Sin...," he says.
MIC veteran joins in, calls BN to wake up
3.50pm: Former MIC secretary-general S Murugesan says the time has come for him to stand up and be counted.
"My friends in BN, for how long will you remain silent?
"How long are you going to defend the indefensible?"
Murugesan also says loyalty to a leader should be given only so long as the leader in question remains loyal to principles on which the country was founded.
Husam: Thank God for just 1MDB, not 2MDB, 3...
3.40pm: PAS Salor assemblyperson Husam Musa says that all Malaysians should have the same right to reject a corrupt government.
"Thank God we only have 1MDB. Not 2MDB or 3MDB," he quips, adding the situation would otherwise have been much worse.
Husam says the calls for Najib's resignation should not be turned into a racial or religious issue.
"It is not an option, but an obligation for all of us.
"Asking a prime minister to resign should not be a big deal. If Najib goes, Malaysia can still grow," he says.
3.20pm: Bersih chairperson Maria Chin Abdullah calls on the people to not only change the rulers, but also change the rules.
Maria said she is speaking in her individual capacity, but the calls for institutional reforms have been championed by civil society groups all along.
Mahfuz: Every reason to avenge Dr M but...
3.10pm: PAS Pokok Sena MP Mahfuz Omar, who is the eighth speaker, says many leaders present here today have a history of opposing one another.
"Myself and Mahathir, he was my father's friend. They came from the same village. Mukhriz is my friend.
"But Mahathir was once in power. If I have political vengeance, I would not be here with him today."
Mahfuz says he has every reason to want revenge, because Mahathir was the one who had signed the letter when he was detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA).
"What we must think about is not just for today, but for the future.
"If we were to hold a vengeance, the ones who will be victimised are our future generations."
2.50pm: True to his fiery style, Kuala Langat MP Abdullah Sani Abdul Hamid stirs up the hall when he takes the stage and rallies workers against Najib.
The acting Malaysian Trade Unions Congress (MTUC) president says he had received thousands of complaints from workers who had been unfairly dismissed from their jobs.
Unlike during Najib's present rule, Abdullah Sani also says prices of goods and services did not rise as drastically when Mahathir was in power.
The audience greets Abdullah Sani's speech with cheers and claps, with some in the front row remarking they are surprised that such an unassuming looking man could be so loud.
Kamarul Azman says Umno has sacked him
2.40pm: Kamarul Azman Habibur Rahman, leader of GKCM, a group of roughly 200 Umno branch leaders, tells the audience he takes his hat off to DAP veteran Lim Kit Siang.
"YB Lim, I take my hat off to you. We are the new breed in Umno. The Malays need not be afraid of Lim Kit Siang. Be afraid of Najib.
"Malays are now capable of thinking. We shouldn't be afraid," he says.
At the same time, he tells the Pakatan Harapan leaders that they will "play this game (politics) fair and square."
"Let the best man win...We are no longer politicking based on parties, but on what is best for the country."
Kamarul Azman also says he has received a letter from Umno secretary-general Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor, informing him that he has been sacked from the party.
However, he says he will ignore the letter saying Tengku Adnan has no integrity to sack him.
'I used to be Najib's biggest fan'
2.20pm: After Zaid, Syed Saddiq comes up on stage again as the second speaker and quips, "I have the honour of introducing myself.
"The beauty of being the emcee, speaker and time keeper is, there is no one to ring the warning bell."
This, he says, is an example of how a concentration of power has impacted Malaysia's democracy.
Syed Saddiq says he used to be prime minister Najib Razak's "biggest fan" and he was even labelled as a "bootlicker" because of it.
"If you (Najib) knew me one year ago, I was one of your biggest fans.
"I thought you were a genuine reformist for repealing (sections of) the University and University Colleges Act (UUCA) and Internal Security Act (ISA).
"I genuninely supported you but when the 1MDB (scandal) hit, all those reforms were (held) back."
Zaid: No Malay, Islamic agenda without integrity
2.10pm: Syed Saddiq as the day's moderator says each speaker will be given 11 minutes to deliver their speech. He warns that a first warning bell will be rung at 10 minutes, and the second a minute after.
Zaid goes on stage as the second speaker. He urges the people to go down to the villages and talk to the ones who may not understand how corruption contributes to their poverty.
"There is no agenda, be it the Malay agenda, Islamic agenda or any agenda that can be implemented if the leader has no integrity," he says.
He also takes a shot at attorney-general Mohamed Apandi Ali for proposing tougher amendments to the Official Secrets Act (OSA).
2pm: Former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad is on centrestage along with Muhyiddin, Zaid and other leaders endorsing the Save Malaysia movement.
The gathering officially kicks off and Mahathir will be delivering the final address.
The hall accomodating 1,200 is packed and roughly 100 are still standing outside.
Unlikely bedfellows arrive
1.45pm: Selangor Menteri Besar Azmin Ali arrives at the venue. He is greeted with cries of “Selamatkan Malaysia!” and “Bebas Anwar!” The original Citizens' Declaration document was criticised by Anwar’s supporters for not explicitly including a demand to release him from prison.
1.30pm: Former MCA president Dr Ling Liong Sik has just arrived at the venue. Ling is one of the 42 initial signatories of the Save Malaysia Declaration.
Inside the hall, the emcee has started calling the guests to take their seats.
Shortly after, suspended Umno deputy president Muhyiddin Yassin arrives to cries of “Reformasi”, “Lawan tetap lawan!” and “Takbir”. Muhyiddin is slated to speak later today.
1.10pm: The hall currently still has only around 100 people. And out of the number, almost half are media practitioners, many whom are already seated while some are busy preparing their video equipment.
Zaid is already in the hall, together with former Umno leader Khairuddin Abu Hassan and former PAS Youth leader Suhaizan Kaiat.
Outside the hall, delegates are still wandering around making small talk to each other. Apart from the Congress’ secretariat members, activist Hishamuddin Rais is also seen talking to the other delegates.
Other top leaders have yet to arrive and no uniformed police presence is seen, nor are there police cars situated anywhere near the venue.
12 noon: With two hours to go before the official start of the Save Malaysia gathering, invited guests and leaders have begun arriving at the Shah Alam Convention Centre, Selangor.
A crowd of close to 100 guests are waiting to enter the venue hall where 1,200 seats have been set up.
Among those spotted are Parti Amanah Negara secretary-general Anuar Tahir, Gabungan Ketua Cawangan Umno Malaysia (GKCM) members and Asia's top debater Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman.
11am: After the initial shock of seeing Dr Mahathir Mohamad together with DAP supremo Lim Kit Siang inking the Citizens' Declaration has worn off, seeing them again today would not raise many eyebrows.
Nevertheless, the People's Congress set to occur today is still significant as high-profile leaders from both sides of the political divide as well as prominent civil society leaders will gather again, this time to speak up on what former law minister Zaid Ibrahim said is about “what's happening in the country”.
Zaid first mooted the gathering last month, in urging the people to rally behind Mahathir in calling for Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak's resignation.
Of course, the grand finale will see Mahathir himself taking the stage today, but others such as former deputy prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin, former Kedah menteri besar Mukhriz Mahathir and PKR deputy president Azmin Ali will be among the 19 lined up to speak.
Whether today's gathering will bring about change remains to be seen. But today’s proceedings starting 2pm at the Shah Alam Convention Centre (SACC) is undoubtedly unprecedented.

Read more: