There’s a new group of red shirts around – but this time it is Umno’s turn to feel the jitters.
At the Mahathir ceramah in Tasik Gelugor in mainland Penang a couple of nights ago, I spotted Parit Buntar MP Mujahid Yusof Rawa of Parti Amanah Negara. I asked him about the fairly large turnout at the ceramah there.
He pointed to the distinctive presence of red shirts among the crowd. “See those guys in red shirts. Many of them are probably former Umno members,” he said.
He has a point there. These people weren’t supporters of the existing opposition parties. Proudly attired in their bright red T-shirts with Bersatu’s white bunga raya emblem on it, they stood out in the crowd of 2,000 in this Umno stronghold.
Given Bersatu’s recent focus on Tasik Gelugor, it looks likely that the party will be contesting in the parliamentary seat here, an Umno stronghold in the past.
At the ceramah, Mahathir continued to lambast Najib and Umno. Among the issues he raised was the influx of foreigners that could be coming in to buy property in the country, making ocal residents feel “uneasy”. “It doesn’t matter whether they are from China, India or Indonesia,” he said, probably to pre-empt any talk that he was playing on communal insecurities.
He also spoke of the 1MDB scandal and how 1MDB had acquired valuable land from the government on the cheap.
The ceramah was held near the house of the former local Umno strongman Shariff Omar, now with Bersatu.
Given the response from the local residents, Umno has good reason to worry whether it can hold on to parliamentary seats like this.