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WPost: Malaysia's Slide
By Washington Post
30/3/2001 8:16 pm Fri
[Baru-baru ini satu kajian mendapati hanya 2 daripada 10
peserta gembira dengan sistem kehakiman, polis, media dan
parlimen Malaysia. Ini menggambarkan betapa teruknya imej
regim Mahathir yang semakin ototraktik (memusat kuasa) itu.
Kajian EIU pula menunjukkan Malaysia dan Hong Kong merupakan
negara yang paling tidak diminati lagi nanti.
Mahathir bertindak dengan dua strategi yang kelihatan menyatu
dan mencengkam. Dia merayu perpaduan etnik untuk menempiaskan
sokongan melayu tetapi ia terpercik dan berbau ke Kg Medan pula
sehingga terkorban beberapa nyawa.
Strategi mencengkamnya pula memberi fokus untuk meretakkan
penetangnya. Beberapa tokoh pembangkang yang berkaliber seperti
DS Wan Azizah, Ezam, dan kini Hj Ab Hadi menjadi sasaran. Laman
web dan akhbar tidak ketinggalan menjadi mangsa serangan.
Mahathir semakin memusnahkan legasinya. Padahal banyak negara
yang begitu maju mampu hidup dengan kebebasan politik.
The Washington Post
March 28, 2001
FOR A long time in East Asia, fast economic growth smoothed
over political discontents and ethnic grievances, conferring upon
authoritarian governments the appearance of legitimacy. The first
signs of change came in the 1980s, when street riots forced South
Korea's military government to allow elections; since then, popular
protests have forced some democratic opening in the Philippines,
Taiwan, Thailand and Indonesia. Until recently, however, Malaysia
escaped this kind of pressure, because it combined
authoritarianism with elections and a vigorous civil society. That is
now changing. The autocratic rule of Dr. Mahathir Mohamad faces
growing challenges, and Dr. Mahathir's heavy-handed response
is making more instability likelier.
One measure of the decline in the government's legitimacy comes
from its own survey of confidence in public institutions that was
published earlier this month. The survey found that only two in 10
people were happy with the state of the courts system; the police,
the media and the parliament scored only marginally better. These
poor showings reflect the wear and tear of authoritarianism.
Respect for the courts, for example, has been in decline since
three judges were pushed out of office in 1988; respect for the
police has suffered partly because of its role in quelling opposition
protests. Meanwhile the media have suffered because people
know journalists face censorship; respect for parliament has been
tarnished by the political upheaval following the sacking, arrest
and beating in 1998 of Anwar Ibrahim, Malaysia's deputy prime
minister. And the decline of confidence in government is reflected
in the business climate. Despite capital controls, an estimated $18
billion fled the country during the past two years. The Economist
Intelligence Unit recently surveyed 60 countries' attractiveness to
foreign investment. Only two countries -- Malaysia and
Chinese-run Hong Kong -- are forecast to be less attractive
during the next five years than they were during the past five.
Dr. Mahathir has a two-pronged strategy for dealing with this
decline in confidence, and both are troubling. He is appealing to
the ethnic nationalism of the Malay majority, a policy that risks
fomenting violence between Malays and the Indian and Chinese
minorities. This month, six people died in street battles on the
outskirts of the capital, the worst ethnic violence since the 1960s.
The prime minister's other response is to crack down on
opponents. A state police chief recently hinted he might round up
opposition leaders who had questioned the official death toll in the
ethnic fighting; and Mr. Anwar's wife, now an opposition leader,
was interrogated for three hours on Friday. The police already
have raided the home of an opposition Web site editor and
removed his computers; they have locked up Mr. Anwar's former
political secretary, Ezam Mohamad Noor, under a law that allows
for the arrest, without warrant, of any individual in order to prevent
a possible future offense from taking place. There is concern that
Mr. Ezam, like Mr. Anwar before him, may be beaten while in
Dr. Mahathir has led Malaysia successfully for 20 years and is now nearing the end of his career. A lurch toward authoritarianism at this stage would damage his legacy and represent a misreading of the trends across East Asia. Even in societies that have notched up marvelously fast growth, political legitimacy must be based upon political freedom.