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AsiaWeek: Slightly Down, But Definitely Not Out
By Arjuna Ranawana
25/5/2001 5:52 am Fri
[Mahathir merancang beberapa strategi untuk mengembalikan
sokongan buat dirinya dan Umno. Ini termasuk membersihkan
imej Umno dengan menyiarkan nama mereka yang terlibat dalam
politik wang. Walaupun begitu itu cuma kegemparan sahaja
kerana BPR tidak pula menyiasat kes itu dan kes lain yang
lebih dahsyat dan menggugat ekonoomi negara. Pengunduran
sedikit Mokhzani tidak pula menerima pujian meninggi kerana
anak-anaknya ada lagi yang bermain di dunia koporat masakini
dan Mokhzani masih memegang beberapa syarikat yang sudah cukup
untuk menyara hidup sampai mati.
Strategi mendekati kaum Cina pula bertujuan untuk memastikan
beliau tetap menang dalam pilihanraya nanti kerana sokongan orang
melayu sudah sukar dikembalikan lagi. Melantik penasihat Cina
dan pengambil-alihan syarikat surat khabar oleh MCA bertujuan
untuk memutar minda kaum Cina. Akhir sekali kaum Cina dalam parti
AKAR diterima sebagai ahli Umno untuk menonjolkan lagi betapa
mesranya beliau kepada masyarakat Cina.
Untuk menumpulkan serangan pembangkang - beliau menangkap aktivis
reformasi termasuk pemimpin keADILan yang berpotensi melalui ISA.
Ini semua bertujuan untuk memantapkan lagi kedudukkannya yang
sudah lemah di sisi masyarakat melayu (akibat kes Anwar) dan cina
(akibat isu Sekolah Wawasan, SRJKC, Suqui, Kuota dll).
Itulah beberapa strategi Mahathir mutakhir ini untuk memukau kaum
Cina dan memulihkan nama Umno. Walaupun begitu kaum Cina perlu
mengimbau lembaran sejarah bagaimana Mahathir yang terdesak
akibat kebangkitan Islam menipu Anwar agar memasukki Umno untuk
membaiki parti itu. Kesudahannya Anwar diaibkan sedemikian rupa
dengan menipu juga. Nasib kaum Cina nanti besar kemungkinan serupa.
Tanyalah Suqui yang telah terpedaya kerana kisah itu tidak lama.
Mahathir selalu menggunakan orang ketiga untuk agendanya... itu
sudah menjadi tektik tradisinya untuk menghancurkan sesiapa termasuk
orang Cina juga. Mungkin Daim pun sama.... kebarangkaliannya ada
tetapi besar kemungkinan Daim tidak akan diapa-apakan kerana dia
menyimpan banyak rahsia siapa Mahathir yang sebenarnya.
Slightly Down, But Definitely Not Out
Mahathir is far-sighted enough to see three years down the road
By ARJUNA RANAWANA
Wednesday, May 23, 2001
Don't believe it when they say he's fading. Parliamentary general
elections may be nearly three years away, but Malaysia's wily,
long-lived Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad is leaving nothing to
chance. In a series of moves made in the past fortnight, Mahathir
has shown he is digging in, and preparing for what may be a tough
political battle in 2004.
In the last elections in 1999 it was clear that support for his United
Malays National Organization was waning. The party's number of
parliamentary seats dropped from 93 to 74. UMNO, which has led
ruling coalitions since independence, admits only indigenous people,
mostly from the majority Malay community. Since the 1999 setback,
efforts to win back the Malays have not been successful.
Accusations of cronyism and corruption made by the opposition
have hit home. The opposition has been successful in painting
UMNO as a party controlled by rich and powerful men who are out
of touch with the people.
Mahathir's first move has been to try to clean up UMNO's image.
He has promised to eliminate corruption, and a party disciplinary
committee has sacked 6 senior party-men on corruption charges.
He also said that the "very wealthy" should not hold party posts.
His own son Mokhzani then announced he was stepping down
from the corporate world and sold his interests in two listed
companies. Mokhzani is an assistant treasurer in UMNO-Youth. On
Monday the party's highest decision making body, the Supreme
Council, at the urging of Mahathir announced that party divisional
heads should not be awarded government contracts. It had been
traditional that UMNO officials received preferential treatment
when government jobs were handed out.
Still, Mahathir may not get the numbers he wants to retain the
two-third's majority the National Front government currently
enjoys in parliament. That sort of dominance gives him the power to
change the constitution, so he is counting on allies to bring him
seats. Among them in the National Front are the racially organized
Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA), Gerakan (another Chinese
organization) and the Malaysian Indian Congress.
To reach out to these communities, for the first time he has
appointed a Mandarin-language schooled adviser to his
inner-circle. Journalist Cheng Kee Chien is expected to help
Mahathir understand the politics of the majority of the Chinese
community who are Mandarin-educated. Cheng is well connected
and will be able to arrange meetings for Mahathir with influential
members of the community. The Prime Minister is expected to
appoint another adviser from the ranks of the English-language
educated Chinese shortly.
Opposition leaders have also charged that Mahathir is urging the
MCA to buy Nanyang Press Holdings, which controls two Chinese
national newspapers, Nanyang Siang Pau and China Press. These
Chinese-language papers are more liberal and forthright than the
mainstream Malaysian English-language press. The MCA already
owns an English daily The Star. Talk of the purchases set off alarm
bells: Chairman of the opposition Democratic Action Party, Lim Kit
Siang, says Mahathir should clarify whether the proposed
acquisition received his approval "and whether it was at his behest."
Political columnist James Wong is distressed by the move, too. "It is
wrong, even dangerous for any political party to own a newspaper."
Clearly Mahathir wants his message given directly to the Chinese
Then, in an unprecedented move, Mahathir announced that some
members of the Chinese community in the eastern state of Sabah
would be admitted to the ranks of UMNO. These people belonged
to a regional party called Akar that was being dissolved. Academic
A. B. Shamsul put it succinctly: "Mahathir is preparing himself to win
an election with reduced Malay support."
As for the Indian community, considered the poorest in Malaysia,
Mahathir has promised some form of affirmative action in future
government plans to increase their economic well being. The plan he
says is to double the share of the economic pie the community now
holds in the next eight years.
Not all of the prime ministers actions have been so deft. Mahathir
also has had 10 opposition activists working with the reform
movement detained under the Internal Security Act. This law gives
police the right to hold people for 60 days without trial and the
government can extend the detention indefinitely. Those detained
had been in the forefront of agitation against the government.
Their arrests appear to have had an effect: the opposition has
apparently become more cautious in organizing demonstrations and
Though under criticism from his own party and the opposition, with
a dangerously slowing economy, capital fleeing the country and
foreign reserves falling Mahathir remains unfazed. His maneuvers -
some savvy, some blatant - show that the old veteran should not
be dismissed as a failed leader. He still has plenty of options to
exercise in the next three years leading to the elections.