AYER HITAM, Johor: Former Malaysian finance minister Daim Zainuddin on Saturday (May 5) rubbished talk of his emergence as a potential game-changer at national polls on May 9.
“It doesn’t matter,” the 80-year-old told Channel NewsAsia after his first public speaking appearance during campaigning season.
“The moment is here already. The rakyat (people) want change.”
Mere hours earlier, Daim was sacked from the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) along with fellow Supreme Council member Rafidah Aziz.
Both were key figures in Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s cabinet when he was prime minister, and have been showing campaign support to the opposition Pakatan Harapan coalition chaired by the Malaysian strongman.
Together, the trio pulled in a huge crowd in Melaka the previous night. But it was a more subdued affair in the Batu Pahat town of Ayer Hitam, with some 500 showing up in anticipation of what Daim had to say.
“I’m interested to know his vision for the nation,” said Timothy, 33.
A businessman lauded for his astute financial sense and keen intellect, Daim retreated from politics in 2004 but remains a respected voice.
That was apparent upon his arrival at the venue, with the crowd cheering, albeit in a reserved fashion, and some sections clamouring for a photo.
With walking stick in hand, Daim had to be helped up on stage and cut a frail figure slumped over in a red chair. But once handed the microphone he launched into an impassioned 20-minute speech, castigating the ruling party while shoring up support for his longtime ally Mahathir - 12 years older but running again as a candidate in his home state of Kedah.
Daim’s wide-ranging diatribe spanned the hot-button topics of previous opposition rallies - from the alleged illegality of UMNO to the introduction of the Goods and Services Tax and the 1Malaysia Development Berhad state fund scandal.
“Since Najib (Razak) took over in 2009, the people have been suffering. The only people who aren’t, are members of the cabinet,” he declared.
“Dr Mahathir built this country so all of you can live better. Under him, we had two recessions in 1986 and 1998, but did you all suffer?”
Daim then related what Dr Mahathir said when the former premier asked him to come back for a second stint as finance minister in 1997. “You must make the people the priority. Even if the country is in trouble, don’t burden them.
“Under the leadership of Dr Mahathir, we will make the future of our children and grandchildren brighter,” he concluded.
Seated by herself in the crowd and listening attentively, Rosnah said, with little hesitation, that it was “a great speech” by Daim.
“I believe what he says,” she nodded. “I know we have all these problems with our country.”