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Fwd: BG Xenophobic Mahathir Attempts to Confuse
By web aNtu

3/9/2000 5:13 am Sun



Prime Minister Mahathir's Merdeka Day speech is an attempt to frighten and confuse Malaysians into embracing his leadership with his paranoid and xenophobic rhetoric. It is a clear sign of a fallen leader desperately grasping the last straw of survival. Otherwise, how can any one explain the total void of substance in his paranoia of grave internal and external threat to this Country?

Mahathir tried to create an atmosphere of emergency, painting the Country as under attack from Chinese extremists (Suqiu), terrorists (Al-Ma'unah), slanderous Internet websites (pro reform groups) and foreign colonizers (developed countries). His scenario of impending calamities is followed of course by his usual assurance that all would be well if everyone unites under his leadership.

Malaysians may already be familiar with this type of Mahathir rhetoric, but on this occasion, his Merdeka Day message carries serious implications and potential hazards to this Country.

First and foremost, we should realize that Mahathir is facing the most serious crisis in his entire political life. The recent conviction of Anwar has practically completed his downfall in the hearts and minds of all Malays except those hardcore who are tied to him for materialistic considerations. His fall in the eyes of the civilized world outside this Country is equally thumping, being contemptuously and savagely criticized by leaders and mass media of the entire democratic world. Even in his home ground of Asean, where leaders are refrained from comments due to agreed Asean protocol, local media in these countries were unrestrained in lashing out attacks on Mahathir for his unjust persecution of Anwar, accusing Mahathir of subverting Malaysia's democratic institutions through the course of it.

A thick skin leader (self-confessed) like Mahathir may not be completely worn down by this severe loss of face and credibility, but he will not survive politically when his own race, who forms the backbone of political power in his country, desert him. Mahathir knows better than anybody that how long he survives politically hinges on how much Malay support he can regain.

How to regain Malay support? There is the honorable way and there is also the not so honorable way. Knowing Mahathir's character, forget about the honorable way, which is to repent and reform.

Looking at the not so honorable options, an easy way out for Mahathir is to dish out material benefits in abundance to lure support in the form of cash, loans, padded up contracts and privatized projects, attractive government and corporate positions etc, however, these facilities have already been fully utilized. So what choice does Mahathir have now other than creating issues that will cause the Malays to flock back to UMNO? And what better issues than that Malay special rights are challenged immediately by Chinese extremists, and potentially by foreigner colonizers ?

That UMNO has deliberately created an artificial challenge to Malay rights to divert attention from the catastrophic fall out from the Anwar conviction, is born out by the following events:

1. On 14th August, 6 days after Anwar was convicted, UMNO controlled Utusan Malaysia splashed the headline ABOLISH MALAY SPECIAL RIGHTS . The news was that David Chua, Deputy Chairman of the National Economic Consultative Committee II (NECC II), was advocating the abolishment of Malay special rights, the contents of which was published earlier in the Far East Economic Review (FEER) dated 10th August. This news was followed by hue and cry from UMNO leaders, who sternly warned against any challenge to the Malay rights.

The point to make here is that that FEER issue dated 10th August was on sales in Malaysia on 7th August. If the Chua interview in FEER was such a dreadful and unforgivable violation of the most sacrosanct of Malay rights, why should Utusan Malaysia have waited for one week before it decided to sensationalise the issue? Was it because only by that time had the full impact of the Anwar disaster been sunk in and the Chua interview was found to be a handy diversion then?

2. The Chua controversy was short-lived, as it was found to be a non-issue. In the FEER interview, Chua, a loyal member of the Ruling Party, was merely disclosing an existing fact, that NECC II was contemplating a gradual relaxation of Malay preferences and quotas within the context of enhancing Malay competitiveness within the larger context of the imminent liberalization of regional and world trade. Chua did not give even the slightest indication that Malay special rights as enshrined in the Constitution would be amended or challenged. Neither would it have been imaginable that NECC II, which is dominated by the upper echelon of Malay society, could be entertaining such a move.

3. After the abortive Chua controversy, UMNO quickly found a new target through which it attempted to prolong and escalate the challenge to Malay rights issue. This time it was the Malaysian Chinese Organisation Election Appeal Committee (Suqiu), which was then holding a private meeting to commemorate its first anniversary on 16th August (no press was invited). 2 days later, on 18th August, UMNO Youth, led by its Deputy Leader and numbering more than one hundred, staged a violent demonstration with inflammatory and racist placards in front of the Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall (symbol of the Chinese community), assaulting reporters and threatening to burn the building, before handing over the memorandum of protest to Suqiu , which was then holding a meeting inside the building. Suqiu promptly invited UMNO Youth to have a dialogue, but was rudely rejected.

4. The crucial point to consider in this latest Suqiu controversy is that the 17 Appeals by Suqiu was presented one year ago, the acceptance of which by the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) was widely publicized in the newspapers, with some BN leaders declaring these Appeals as universal principles, meant to benefit all races . So why should these same Appeals suddenly become so offensive as to warrant unprovoked violence and condemnation by the same ruling party now? And why staged the protest at this particular time?

5. The 17 Appeal by Suqiu is a document presented to all political parties one year ago, prior to the run up of an anticipated National Election. This document is in effect an all-embracing platform of a good government, based on universally accepted principles of democracy, human rights and good governance, tailor suit to the peculiar political circumstances existing in this Country. Apart from spelling the salient points of good governance, it also advocates corrections to many serious weaknesses of the current government, including abolishment/amendment to many undemocratic legislations which violate basic human rights, elimination of rampant corruption and cronyism and re-establishing the independence of democratic institutions such as the judiciary, attorney general's chamber, election commission, anti-corruption agency etc.

6. Where this document runs aground with certain Malays is its advocacy to de-emphasize racial differentiation in the running of the affairs of this Country. UMNO angrily claims it is a violation of Malay rights, while Suqiu insists that it has not challenged the special position of Malays as enshrined in the Constitution. The Opposition's view is that the Barisan Nasional leadership has massively abused the Affirmative Action Policy to enrich its cronies to the neglect of the poor Malays, and opposes the current UMNO campaign to whip up Malay animosity against the Chinese.

7. From the historical point of view, there is no doubt that Mahathir has massively abused the Affirmative Policy to build up an extensive crony capitalism fraught with rampant corruption, akin to Suharto's Indonesia, albeit on a smaller scale. The correct approach to the present controversy is the commissioning of a body comprising all political shades and races to carry out a comprehensive review of the past implementation of this Policy with a view to eliminate abuses, excesses and failures and to improve on the substance and implementation so that the entire Malay and Bumiputra societies can genuinely benefit while minimizing inconveniences and handicaps to the non-bumiputras. Equal emphasis must also be given to the other component of this Policy, which has hitherto been neglected, that is, the eradication of poverty irrespective of races. As this Policy is an interim measure to uplift the social and economic status of the bumiputras, a concrete schedule must be drawn up now to progressively reduce the scale of this Policy so that bumiputras are given an extra push to meet the targets while an egalitarian society can eventually be achieved.

8. That UMNO has attempted to whip up Malay anger and alarm on an artificial issue is glaringly shown by the fact that its outbursts on violation of Malay rights are totally unjustified and uncalled for.

FIRST, Suqiu's Appeal is an old and dormant issue, and it had not taken any step to highlight any racial issues when Utusan Malaysia suddenly splashed a headline on it, followed by a violent swoop by UMNO Youth at lightning speed.

SECOND, political realities of this Countries are such that Bumiputra dominance of political power is absolute and beyond any question. No sane person would imagine it possible that Malay special position as enshrined in the Constitution can even be touched without the concurrence of the Bumiputras. The Chinese know it, so do the Malays. So where come the panic and anxieties?

THIRD, Suqiu's Appeal is mere appeals; they are not even demands. It is up to any political party including the ruling pary to accept or reject in total or in part. There is no ultimatum or threat, hence no challenge, least of all to a constitutional amendment.

FOURTH, when faced with a violent confrontation, Suqiu took the most appropriate step under the circumstances, which was to invite UMNO Youth to a dialoque.

Why did UMNO Youth reject a dialoque outright if it thought it was standing on just ground? Was it due to guilty conscience for raising a storm in a tea cup?


The raising of the Al-Ma'unah issue by Mahathir is in fact a smoke screen thrown by him to heighten the sense of insecurity among Malaysians as well as to give a facade of balance to his speech in which he attacked both Suqiu and Al-Ma'unah as Chinese extremists and Malay extremists respectively. Al-Ma'unah is an aberration in society that may occur in any country. It is an isolated event of a small group of misled individuals, purportedly attempting to achieve their objectives (whatever these are) by violence. It poses neither security nor political threat to this Country. Perhaps what Malaysians have to be more worried about is the appalling lack of security in our army camps.


Mahathir has alleged a hundred times, repeating like a parrot, that foreign powers jealous of our success are constantly out to re-colonise us, without identifying for one single instant what these powers are. We presume he means the developed countries.

If these foreign creatures are so dreadful, why has he and his ministers made so many trips to these countries making overtures and practically begging these dreadful foreigners to come to investment in our Country? In spite of Mahathir's frequent boasts in mass rally that this Country has progressed on our own effort and without foreign help, can he really pick up enough courage to tell to the face of a professional audience that Malaysia's spectacular economic growth of the past decade was not due in large measure to foreign investment? In this respect, ironically we have to give credit to where it is due to Mahathir's visionary leadership in the timely liberalizing of the Malaysian market to foreigners at the turn of the last decade. It is this open door policy more than anything else that has brought about the spurt in our industrialization and international trade, bringing us unprecedented prosperity and advancement.

The tragedy with Mahathir is that his ego was crippled by the recent Asian Financial Crisis, and he has not recovered since. He has doggedly refused to admit that in the recent Crisis, Malaysia's fall, in particulars the Bumiputra entrepreneurs', was due principally to Malaysia's structural weaknesses, namely, poor economic planning, indisciplined banking and reckless expansion, all in a decadent atmosphere of rapidly growing corruption and cronyism. Instead of taking the bitter medicine, like South Korea for instant, Mahathir has lashed out at the foreigners with a vengeance, and retreated inwards. His increasing antagonism against the liberalization of markets stands in stark contrast to some of the neighbours, like Singapore, which has substantially brought forward its original schedule to liberalize its banking and telecommunication industries to foreigners. Mahathir tragically forgets that, it is this same liberalizing policy that has brought him so much glory and acclaim in the past.


I have said earlier that Mahathir's Merdeka Day speech may bring serious consequences to this Country. This is because if Malaysians, particularly Malays, are taken in by Mahathir's falsehood, this Country may plunge to greater depths of misfortune.

By then, Malays may re-align their political allegiance, not on the principles of justice, democracy and good governance, but on racial suspicion and divisiveness. This will weaken the Alternative Front, throwing back the political progress that has been so laboriously achieved by so many.

And if Malaysians in general believe in Mahathir's doctrine of foreign devils and foolish self-reliance, then we will all be in for a bleak economic future.

To the good fortune of all Malaysians, Malays in the Alternative Front do not appear to have responded enthusiastically to UMNO's racial call, and this may yet be a turning point in our political history where Malays are more pulled to good governance than to parochial racial interests. For this transformation, we have to thank the inspiring leadership of Anwar, whose stoic and impeccable stature in the face severe adversity has given courage and encouragement to his supporters. If Malays have weathered well against the current UMNO campaign to incite racial animosity, then Anwar should at least have the consolation that his sufferings have not been completely in vain.

Kim Quek