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The Age: Mahathir's democracy looks torn and frayed
By Tony Parkinson

16/4/2001 4:00 pm Mon

[Tidak ada pemimpin Malaysia yang paling kuat membuli dan mereka-reka sesuatu yang tidak ada selain Dr Mahathir. Kali ini dia mengada-ngada lagi dengan menangkap 7 aktivis di bawah akta ISA dengan tuduhan ingin menggulingkan kerajaan secara militan. Tetapi wartawan Mebourne Age yang pernah menemuramah beberapa aktivis tersebut mendapati mereka tidak berminat langsung untuk mencetus keganasan kerana suara mereka sahaja sudah cukup berkesan untuk menumbangkan kezaliman. Lagipun perwatakan mereka tidak melambangkan seseorang yang keras - tidak seperti Mahathir.

DI bawah akta ISA seseorang itu boleh ditahan sehingga 60 hari TANPA BICARA, dan boleh dilanjutkan sehingga 2 TAHUN jika Menteri Dalam Negeri meluluskannya - JUGA TANPA BICARA. Ini bermakna kesemua aktivis mungkin tidak akan muncul sebelum pemilu 2004 nanti.

Mahathir tidak menghormati demokrasi atau hak asasi manusia. Dia tentunya akan dikutuk oleh dunia tetapi dia sudah tidak perduli lagi. Dia lupa agaknya apabila tangkapan dilakukan tanpa bukti dan tanpa bicara itu tanda dia amat dayus lagi lemah sebenarnya. Ini bukan ciri-ciri seorang wira - tetapi seorang penyangak yang berlagak sebagai penyelamat bangsa. Budak tadika pun mampu menelah sikapnya - inikan pula orang dewasa. Tidakkah ahli Umno merasa malu berketuakannya? - Editor]

The Melbourne Age
14th April 2001

Mahathir's democracy looks torn and frayed


Malaysia's Mahathir Mohamad looks more and more the ageing tyrant. Are there no limits to his campaign to crush his political opponents?

The Prime Minister's bullying and harassment of the supporters of his jailed former deputy, Anwar Ibrahim, turned especially nasty this week, with the arrest and detention of seven leading opposition figures under Malaysia's draconian Internal Security Act.

Dr Mahathir says the police have acted to curtail a terrorist threat to national security. Baloney. The real purpose was to undermine today's protest march in Kuala Lumpur commemorating "Black 14" - the second anniversary of Mr Anwar's imprisonment.

As he languishes in Sungai Buloh jail, ailing and in need of surgery, Mr Anwar still haunts the Prime Minister.

The former deputy PM's only crime, of course, was to emerge three years ago as a serious leadership rival to the tenacious Dr Mahathir.

Soon enough, there were bogus allegations of sexual misconduct and corruption, a show trial, and a 15-year prison sentence.

Now, police have detained seven members of the Free Anwar Movement on suspicion of planning violent protests to topple the Prime Minister. The police chief claims Mr Anwar's supporters had been trying to buy weapons, including rocket launchers.

I have met several of these so-called terrorists. The allegations are too preposterous for words.

Among those arrested was Ezam Noor, charismatic leader of the Keadilan (Justice Party) youth wing. His only weapon is his eloquence. Also detained was Tian Chua. Thin and studious, he is very much the intellectual, and a prominent activist with the Suaram human rights lobby.

As for Raja Petra Kamarudin, he can be a fearsome sight as he roars around Kuala Lumpur on what he calls his "Japanese Harley". But strip away the helmet and leathers and he is a convivial middle-aged Malay College old boy. A fire-breathing revolutionary he is not.

When plainclothes police surrounded Raja Petra's car in the affluent suburb of Damansara, his wife, Marina, thought they were being set upon by a gang of thieves.

"They were screaming at us to open the car doors," she told me by phone from Kuala Lumpur. "They didn't show us any badges or identification. I couldn't see if they were armed or not. I honestly thought we were about to be robbed."

It would be laughable were it not deadly serious. As Dr Mahathir adds to his mounting collection of political prisoners, Malaysia is staking a claim for the title of most repressive regime in the region. The PM's ego appears such that he is beginning to confuse national security with his own security of tenure.

Under the Internal Security Act, the seven can be held for up to 60 days without being brought before a court. If the Home Minister approves, their detention without trial can stretch to two years: long enough to keep them safely out of circulation as Dr Mahathir prepares to face voters again in 2004.

In the absence of any hard evidence to the contrary, it is fair to assume this is yet another blatant "fix" in the hope of extending Dr Mahathir's 22-year grip on power. We know Asia's longest-serving leader enjoys his job, but, plainly, this is getting ridiculous.

There will be international outrage, among human rights groups, in the media, and in the Western democracies. Dr Mahathir says he could not care less. "They have never said anything good about us even when we are very nice," he snarled on Thursday. "They can go and fry their faces."

Says Marina Kamarudin: "The old man doesn't care what people think of him. Whether he looks stupid or not, it is immaterial to him. He just does what he wants."

Having dealt with the shock of her husband's detention, she is now having to wrestle with another disturbing reality - maybe most Malaysians don't care much. And even if they do, it is likely many are too intimidated to say so.

Today's protest march will go ahead regardless. Mr Anwar's wife, Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, the leader of Keadilan and an elected MP, fully intends to be there.

Who can guess what response Dr Mahathir has planned? Agents provocateur? Staged riots? Discovery and seizure of weapons planted on protesters? Any or all of this now seems possible. Constitutional rule has become a fiction in Malaysia.

Democracy under Dr Mahathir was never for purists. But seldom, if ever, has it looked shabbier.