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WPost: Crackdown in Malaysia
By Kapal Berita

12/1/2001 2:55 am Fri

[Rencana ini menggambarkan sentuhan Mahathir sudah semakin pudar. Lunas membuatkan dia semakin gementar. Polis dan mahkamah begitu cergas memburu pembangkang yang aktif, khusunya dari parti keADILan dan para reformis yang sentiasa berani hari demi hari. Igauan pemandangan Jalan Kebun sudah memberi satu amaran bahawa nafas Mahathir mungkin cuma tinggal beberapa hari lagi.

Mahathir kini menjadi mangsa 'pembangunan' yang dicetus oleh beliau sendiri. Alam siber menyaksikan satu lagi tunjuk perasaan media yang cukup membimbangkan Umno. Pena itu sudah menikam Mahathir dan Umno begitu jauh ke dalam. Bolehkah dia bertahan jika pagar medianya tumbang? - Editor]

Source: IHT

Crackdown in Malaysia


Malaysia's prime minister of 19 years, Mahathir bin Mohamad, is one of those strongmen who likes elections and judges and independent journalists as long as they don't threaten his authority. Trouble is, Mr. Mahathir's authority does face threats these days. Last year he lost an election in his home state, and he is scared that his party may lose power in the 2004 general election. So he is cracking down on opponents with a new ruthlessness. Having arranged for his onetime deputy, Anwar Ibrahim, to be jailed on charges of corruption and s###my, he has responded to pro-Anwar demonstrations with tear gas and beatings. Nine opposition politicians recently have been hit with criminal charges for offenses such as illegal assembly.

This repression looks stupid as well as nasty, because it seems only to add to the opposition's energy. The Anwar trial triggered international protest, which has in turn emboldened Mr. Anwar's followers to press their case domestically. The National Justice Party, headed by Mr. Anwar's wife, Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, dealt the electoral blow to Mr. Mahathir in his home state in November. Most of the activists who face criminal charges come from that same party. There is no reason to suppose that their harassment will consolidate the prime minister's power any more effectively than previous heavy-handedness has done.

The irony is that Mr. Mahathir's grip is slipping partly because of his own achievements. He has presided over an economic miracle, which has created an independent-minded, educated citizenry; the spread of the Internet that he has fostered also makes the country harder to control. The traditional print press, which tends to defer to the prime minister, now is supplemented by irreverent online journalism. The readership of critical news sites expanded exponentially when feeling was running against Mr. Mahathir during the Anwar trial.

Mr. Mahathir has said he wants to retire before the next election; his concern is to leave behind a party that is securely in power. But manipulating the courts to squash political opponents will only harm the prime minister's legacy. Leading Malaysia to prosperity ought to be sufficient basis for a happy retirement. - THE WASHINGTON POST.