Thursday, 6 March 2008

Malaysia needs a strong Opposition - Dr M

Former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad gave an inteview to Malaysiakini. In the first of a two-part interview with journalist Li Tsin Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad says Malaysia needs a strong Opposition "that can hold up a mirror to the government." He also gives his assessement on how Pas, DAP and PKR would do in Kelantan, Penang and elsewhere, criticises Pak Lah and slams the son-in-law.

Here's excerpt of the interview:

“I believe in an opposition. I have always maintained that this country needs an opposition and they should be critical of the government without which we don’t have a mirror to look at our faces. We think that we are very beautiful but it is the opposition that keeps telling us (that may not be true).

“You know the government member (of parliament), sometimes they are ‘ahli bodek’ (apple polishers). They are always saying ‘you’re right’, and you have no means of assessing whether you are going in the right direction or not.”

He told Malaysiakini in an exclusive interview today that it would be a “disaster” if the country “loses its opposition” as in Singapore.

Looking a little frail in his trademark bush jacket since his second heart bypass in September last year, Mahathir gave his prognosis on this Saturday’s general elections.He said the government would be able to retain its two-thirds majority but could lost a few seats in Terengganu and Kedah.Mahathir also predicted that the government would win between 70 to 75 percent of Parliament seats on March 8.

In the 2004 general elections, BN won 90 percent of the seats. If Mahathir is correct, then the opposition could win between 55 to 65 seats, which will be a sizable increase from its current tally of 21.Mahathir also did not think the Barisan Nasional coalition would be able to wrest Kelantan state government from Islamic party PAS.

“Kelantan would be a very difficult because although the margin is very small, Kelantanese have got a mind of their own, so to speak. If they are living in KL, they are very supportive of the government but if they are living in Kelantan, the peer pressure is very strong.”

Mahathir also believed that the opposition would do well in Penang, but not enough to win government, or deny BN its two-thirds majority.

Two clarifications

Mahathir also took the opportunity at the interview held at his Perdana Leadership Foundation office in Putrajaya to clarify that there was no prior agreement in which his handpicked successor would serve only one term as prime minister.

“I want to say this, there was no gentleman’s agreement on this but my thinking was that he (Abdullah Ahmad Badawi) should serve for one term and give Najib (Razak) who by then would be much older to succeed him,” he said.

The former BN leader who spearheaded BN’s victory in five consecutive elections also ticked off the opposition for seeking to capitalise on something which he had said in jest.

Full interview here


Anonymous said...

by Martin Jalleh

It is simply amazing how someone who was deemed “irrelevant” by the caretaker PM and of whom the mainstream media (MSM) chose to send into oblivion has now become the cover story of the MSM – for very obvious reasons of course!

“Who is Anwar? ” the PM had asked sarcastically. He is finished. His political career has folded up. But now, almost every other day Pak Lah answers his own question! Anwar’s “spirit” haunts, hounds and heckles him – even though Anwar is not eligible to stand!

Very evidently the script and sandiwara for the General Elections by the boys on the Fourth Floor have spun out of control. The sycophants surrounding the PM have been caught with their pants down.

In comes an eminent human rights advocate who would spew out an “intellectual” diatribe – Chandra Muzaffar – a man whom in elections of recent times (except when he was in the Opposition) the BN would unleash before the final curtain.

“If Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim becomes Prime Minister, it will be an ‘unmitigated disaster’ for Malaysia. . . he is not the sort of leader the country needs as he is now singing a different tune from when he was in the Government, ” charged Chandra, the former deputy president of PKR.

Chandra changed?

A member of the public named “Amar” who wrote to the editor of Malaysiakini pointed out that the “examples he (Chandra) quotes in the report were events that happened way before Anwar lost Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s patronage and interestingly, these were events that took place before Anwar’s reformasi movement commenced. ”

“On what basis did Chandra join PKR as deputy president given that he had reservations over Anwar’s past decisions? ” he quite appropriately asked.

In a similar vein respected journalist and former MP James Wong Wing On quotes a retired academician who attended the forum during which “Chandra Muzaffar had ‘really succeeded’ in damaging or even destroying his own credibility by re-launching ‘a very bitter and vindictive’ attack on Anwar Ibrahim’s ‘past records’ in the BN government”:

“If Chandra Muzaffar had always known Anwar’s "past records" in BN…why did he continue to support Anwar in the period from 1998 to 1999 and also became Parti Keadilan Nasional’s deputy president and its parliamentary candidate in the 1999 general election? ”

A “Aril Mikhail” wrote to Malaysiakini highlighting the irony that “Chandra is ‘coming clean’ and saying all this of Anwar now, when he himself appears to be doing the exact opposite of what he was doing when in Aliran and PKR. Before, he consistently argued against the BN having a two-thirds majority and the need for a strong opposition. ”

“Now, on the eve of the elections, he seemingly dismisses the opposition and asserts that, despite its flaws, there is no other viable coalition beyond the BN. How fortuitous. I guess when you’ve been offered a cushy position in a state university for two years, you tend to ‘change’ somewhat.

“Dear Chandra, selling out is fine. But becoming a willing tool of a corrupt, arrogant and racist regime at this critical juncture devalues, indeed destroys, whatever good work you may have done thus far. May God guide you, ” was Mikhail’s parting blessing!

In other words, it appears Chandra is also singing a different tune?

Chandra Confused?

In their response to Chandra’s cutting criticism of Anwar, the Malaysian Media Monitors’ Diary, a joint project of Charter 2000-Aliran, the Centre for Independent Journalism and the Writers Alliance for Media Independence, along with independent volunteers, showed how confused Chandra was:

“Chandra also expressed his fear of serious polarisation in the country: ‘My fear is that this coming election will reinforce and aggravate the ethnic polarisation if a large number of non-Malays vote for the Opposition, and worse if a large percentage of Malays vote for the Opposition. This will cause Umno to be very cautious in making any changes to the ethnic question and addressing issues related to religion. ’

“Such an argument only raises further questions: in the first place, isn’t the increase in polarisation due to ethnic-based policies and practices of the past Umno-led administrations, as alluded to by Chandra himself? If so, how on earth could Umno be relied upon to make meaningful changes that could redress problems related to ethnicity and religion?

“And why was there an emergence of amorphous groups such as Hindraf that articulate legitimate grievances (to a large extent) from a particular ethnic community?

“Secondly, how can ethnic polarisation worsen if both the non-Malays and the Malays vote for the Opposition? If anything, a multi-ethnic ruling coalition and a multi-ethnic opposition would lessen polarisation and ensure that issues raised are debated in the interests of all Malaysians. Is it the only the Barisan Nasional that can resolve ethnic issues and polarisation. The record indicates otherwise. ”

Chandra Consistent?

Chandra also said “the most important quality of a leader in a multi-ethnic country was honesty and when a leader spoke on sensitive ethnic issues, he must say the same thing to non-Malays as to the Malays…You cannot play games because it is very dangerous. "

There could be no better response to this than that provided by the Malaysian Media Monitors’ Diary: ”If, as rightly pointed out by Chandra, the issue of trust and honesty is vital, then shouldn’t we, or rather forum moderator Wong Chun Wai, also ask whether leaders such as keris-wielding Hishamuddin can be trusted to be one of the country’s leaders.

“After all, didn’t Hishamuddin change his political stance pertaining to the issue of Chinese and Tamil schools in the country in the run-up to the general election? Isn’t that political expedience of the highest degree?

“Hasn’t his tune changed? Wasn’t it in Umno that you had a few politicians talking of unsheathing the keris and threatening to bathe it with Chinese blood? Did this escape Wong’s (or Chandra’s) memory? ”

Yes, what about the “honesty” of caretaker deputy prime minister Najib Tun Razak who in 1987, as UMNO Youth Chief, vowed to bathe the keris with Chinese blood, and who now never fails to spew out a verbal diarrhea of multi-racial mutterings?

As for consistency, did the caretaker PM not preach to the gathering of Christians at the Plenary Commission on Faith and Order of the World Council of Churches at the beginning of his premiership on “Dialogue The Key To Unity Of Multireligious, Multiethnic And Multicultural Societies” and yet, four years later ban the Building Bridges Conference, a inter-religious seminar meant to bring together Christian and Muslim scholars of international repute?

Alas, Chandra seems so out of tune! Even the Aliran Executive Committee feels so. In a statement today they provide two examples: “It is odd, (therefore, ) that Chandra should be so concerned about the problem of money politics in PKR per se. At the same time, he has not said much of late about the money politics which has always been associated with the BN. ”

”Chandra also has highlighted the supposedly racial scare tactics used by PKR during the Lunas by-election. For us, such dirty tricks have been resorted to by all parties especially the BN. Again, all forms of racial baiting by all parties should be condemned. ”

Chandra’s chicanery?

In recent years, Anwar has in fact addressed what Chandra has accused him off. As Aril Mikhail has put it quite succinctly: “The gist of Chandra’s personal attack is that Anwar is saying things now that are the opposite of what he said and did when he was high up in Umno. This, of course, is nothing new and Anwar himself has addressed these criticisms often enough. ”

Indeed quite recently Anwar has met head-on criticisms and the portrayal of him as a political chameleon (especially by the MCA). When asked to respond to a 4-page leaflet by the MCA entitled “Disclosing the true face of Anwar”, Anwar said:

“The notion that I’m a political chameleon misses things by a mile…Nothing I did and said in the language and cultural spheres were not standard BN-Umno policy and nowhere did I take my championing of any issue to the extent that I waved a keris and called for bloodletting, stirring crowds to emotive outbursts”

Anwar was referring to the October 1987 Umno Youth-led demonstration in Kuala Lumpur where a band of Malay leaders, including present Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak, harangued the crowd with inflammatory rhetoric.

At that time, the posting of non-Mandarin speaking administrators to government-aided Chinese schools ratcheted up racial tension in the country: “Those were fraught times and I hold that the distinction one ought to make between a responsible and a chauvinistic leader in that context lay in how you argued your point without inflaming public sentiment.

“I stood on the sane side of that divide while there were others in power today who breached that line with impunity, ” he said.

In early February this year, Anwar subjected himself to a rigorous examination of his stances on religious issues in the presence of about 200 Christian clerics and lay activists and appeared to have emerged intact (Malaysiakini).

There was no variance between his public pronouncements and his private assurances to his inquisitors, said an observer at the closed-door dialogue held in Petaling Jaya, organised by the Christian Federation of Malaysia.

Chandra’s Condemnation

There also remains the hopeful reality that politicians do and can change for the better through time and circumstance. James Wong quotes a good Christian friend who also attended the forum wherein Chandra spoke:

“…whatever his "past records" in the BN government, Anwar has ‘cleansed’ himself by his willingness to suffer grave injustices and tortures from 1998 to 2004, and also by working hard now to oppose BN’s unjust policies. Seen in this light, Anwar is definitely a better person than those in the BN who still refuse to make amends for the better. ”

“Has Dr. Chandra Muzaafar himself changed for the better or worse? ” asked James Wong

By portraying Anwar as untrustworthy and unprincipled Chandra is pronouncing the “death sentence” on the man who has already paid a very costly price for challenging the head of a hegemony who was capable of the most heinous!

Chandra also confounded the whole country when he said that although BN was “flawed”, there was no other coalition in the country. In its statement Aliran stated that it “does not share Chandra’s recent remarks vis-à-vis Anwar Ibrahim and PKR. Neither do we share his views that the BN despite its flaws is a better choice. Indeed, we are rather perturbed by his apparently emotional outburst. ”

Asked why he was breaking his silence now, Chandra said it appeared that people were being deceived by Anwar and (i)t is something for which I am prepared to go on record now so that people will not be deceived".

Chandra should keep in mind what he had once declared: “Malaysians are not idiots or imbeciles. ”

Apparently Aliran was not satisfied with the answer given by its former president and so it stated and asked: “The most disturbing aspect of this episode is how Dr Chandra Muzaffar has wittingly or unwittingly lent himself to be a part of the BN propaganda machine. It is sad that a prominent intellectual and long-time activist of his standing has such a blinkered view of the issue at hand. We wonder why he did not make these alleged goings-on public earlier and follow up on them conclusively given his public stance on integrity and accountability. Why only now? "

Alas, Chandra should not allow himself to be a hydra of the BN!

Martin Jalleh
5 March 2008

The Ancient Mariner said...

Dr M: "Malaysia needs as strong Opposition"

Bloody right. So lets vote in the BR and make BN the Opposition. They will be very strong all right.