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Fwd: Bloomberg Malaysia's Mahathir Grabs Opposition State's Cash:
By Mat Teropong

9/9/2000 5:03 am Sat

Malaysia's Mahathir Grabs Opposition State's Cash:

By David DeRosa

New Canaan, Connecticut, Sept. 7 (Bloomberg) -- Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad came to Chicago last week to get a lifetime achievement award from The American Finance House, an Islamic bank. Mahathir was cited for being a ``leading role model in charting new courses in economic development, monetary policy and multi-ethnic co-existence.''

Shame on the American Finance House. The award is an insult to the Malaysian people who suffer under Mahathir's tyranny and it is a desecration of the ideals that the bank claims to embrace.

It also says something about Mahathir's new status that he would travel halfway around the world to pick up this puny award, a mere bagatelle. But then, there may not be too many organizations chasing Mahathir with lifetime achievement awards these days.

For example, I doubt that any self-respecting civil liberties group would give him the time of day after his savage treatment of his former Deputy Prime Minister, Anwar Ibrahim. Mahathir began to fear Ibrahim as a political rival. So he had him arrested, given a jail-house beating, and put up for a long prison term based on a trumped-up s###my charge.

`Errors of Judgment'

You would think that Mahathir might have learned something from last month's visit by Singapore Senior Minster Lee Kuan Yew. Mr. Lee told Mahathir that he had ``made an error of judgment, several errors of judgment, which I felt were most unfortunate.'' In one ear, out the other ear.

And I don't think the citizens of the state of Terengganu, Malaysian's largest oil producer, have any awards lined up for Mahathir. On Tuesday, Mahathir's Finance Ministry summarily announced that some 810 million ringgits ($215 million) of oil revenue due to Terengganu under a 1975 agreement between the state and the national oil company Petronas would be diverted to the federal treasury.

It's not hard to come up with a motive for Mahathir to have taken this unilateral action. Mahathir's opposition in parliament says he is punishing Terengganu for having voted his ruling coalition out of power in favor of the opposition Parti Islam se-Malaysia (PAS).

What makes it look especially bad is that the other oil- producing states of Sabah and Sarawak, which just happen to be governed by Mahathir's Barisan Nasional coalition, continue to receive their oil royalties under the same 1975 agreement.

This Is Ethnic Harmony?

The National Bernama news agency quoted Mahathir defending his move: ``It is not a royalty. It is a special payment that we give Terengganu in view of it being the poorest state in the past, but things have changed now.'' Later he declared that Terengganu had no right to any payments because the oil wells were actually located offshore.

So the message is clear: If you cross Mahathir, you pay with your personal freedom or your state funds or by other means. And it is going to hurt because this man plays for keeps.

And one more thing: if you are a Malaysian of Chinese ancestry, then watch out because Mahathir is just waiting for you to give him an excuse to impose martial law. That was the clear message in Mahathir's Nation Day speech on Aug. 31. The American Finance House's honoree likened some Chinese groups to the communist insurgents who once staged a guerrilla war in Malaysia.

Mahathir came under heavy criticism for his delivery of what amounts to a threat to certain opposition Malaysian and Chinese dissident groups, by saying they were ``playing with fire.'' The threat could not have been more clear, and it was duly noted by the opposition Chinese Democratic Action Party's leader, Lim Kit Siang, who called the speech ``disgraceful.''

And this is the man who gets a lifetime achievement award for encouraging ``multi-ethnic co-existence''?

Link Reference : Boomberg