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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. - Editor]

Slightly Down, But Definitely Not Out

Mahathir is far-sighted enough to see three years down the road


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 community.

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 public rallies.

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.