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PM skips Davos - MGG Pillai
By web aNtu

25/1/2000 7:15 am Tue

The Prime Minister Cancels Official Visit, Skips Davos

The Prime Minister justified his appearance at the World Economic Forum in Davos this year as representing the Muslim World, with the King of Jordan, the presidents of Egypt and Indonesia in a discussion with Western heads of government to identify similarities in Islamic and Western culture. This annual Davos conference discusses matters as this that has defied definition for centuries. This outrageously expensive meeting place to establish contacts attracts the world's gullible famous and the rich for the privilege of a photograph with the Ougadougouan leader to translate into greater commercial glory. It made the sponsors rich, as Bernie Ecclestone did out of the F-1 motor car race. No one, indeed, has lost money overestimating the public's gullibility; besides the rich and the famous are attacted by the exclusivity inherent in the steep admission fee. But Malaysia, with its ostrich-like confidence in its global importance, believes dreams of this kind gives its views prominence. So, the Prime Minister heads for such climes, with the speeches he gives getting extensive coverage in the Bolehland press but nowhere else. One hears almost nothing of the other leaders except when they meet the Prime Minister. So the Prime Minister uses this conference, as others do, to establish a local reputation of statesmanly punditry. Still, within the frame he set himself, the sudden cancellation for reasons unknown -- we are told he did not fall off a horse, as Kuala Lumpur's rumour mill suggest, though someone from the entourage did, with officials coy of revealing his name -- does suggest a capriciousness that the Prime Minister is prone to these days.

When the Prime Minister goes on a holiday, he goes with his family. Unless he is the Chief Justice, when he would with a lawyer whose name has become a byword in judicial influence and their families, or the Attorney-General with this lawyer and his crony business man client and their wives. If it is not, any accident as now confirmed happened should be promptly reported. Was it necessary to keep people in suspense about a possible mishap to the the Prime Minister? With an emba#sy in Buenos Aires, the Malaysian amba#sador would certainly be in touch with the Prime Minister on holiday. And yet despite the rumours, no one in authority would put matters to rest. We should also be told who were in the entourage, whether he travelled in an official aircraft, as rumours suggest he did. Obviously some thing did happen for him to cancel the official visit to Switzerland and the Davos forum. A man falling off a horse, unless it was he, is no reason to cancel an official visit or miss a conference where he represents more than Malaysia. The foreign ministry would not say why he cancels both the official visit and the Davos forum? This cannot be equated with his skipping the Commonwealth heads of government conference in South Africa at the last minute; that was wrong, but it affected only Malaysia and perhaps the Prime Minister's worsening relations with the former South African president, Mr Nelson Mandela.

Something clearly upset his political calculations in place before his South American date with vaqueros on his estancia. That he did go when he did, even if it was to be his first long break in over two years, raised eyebrows. It was seen as an attempt to test his deputy prime minister, appointing no one to act but in which Dato' Seri Abdullah apparently is not in charge either. Political disruptions arising from his pyrhhic election victory continues to haunt UMNO. The editor-in-chief of the New Straits Times is dismissed, the Bahasa Baku affair continues to suggest the continuation of the political vendetta against his nemesial former deputy prime minister, the attempt to have an uncontested president and deputy president challenged now by the party veterans. The UMNO ground rumbles in ways he could not have thought possible. The UMNO leaders, in his absence, redefines democracy by demanding no contests for the positions they are interested in, but not for others. The party president must be challenged, but not the Wanita or the youth leaders. Confusion more confounded there cannot be. Besides, the hermit at 31 Jalan Langgak Golf, draws more support than even strongest supporter would dare admit. The Prime Minister surely would have heard the rumour that the Hermit could well be ready to take him on for the UMNO presidency itself; and that he had to rebuild his ramparts. He knew of all this before he left for his holiday. Something else did happen to force his dramatic, drastic change of plans. Even more, he must now name the gentleman who fell off the horse. Why should this disrupt his plans? Until then, I shall believe the gentleman is the Prime Minister himself.

M.G.G. Pillai