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TheAge: Bitter Mahathir Slams Divided Party
By Mark Baker

23/6/2001 11:21 am Sat

[Mahathir menuduh gila-gila dan menyerang semua pihak yang berjaya menggugat beliau dan Umnonya. Ini menunjukkan beliau sudah resah dan gerun dengan kesedaran orang melayu, penampilan PAS, kredibiliti dan kepimpinan muda parti keADILan, kejituan pakatan BA, dan tulisan berbisa dari internet dan media asing. Dia cuma pandai menuduh sahaja tetapi tidak mempunyai bukti sehingga menggunakan ISA pula. Sekarang media Cina pula mahu dicengkamnya.

Tetapi semua langkah yang diambilnya telah melepaskan lebih banyak peluru maut buat dirinya dan Umno juga. Sekarang kaum hawa sudah bangkit dan masyarakat Cina sudahpun mula menjerit. Hakim pula sudah berani dan semakin ramai kini merasa simpati melihat nasib keluarga ISA dan Anwar yang sakit tidak terperi. Tambah lagi layanan buat kaki pukul Rahim Nor yang cukup istimewa sekali sedangkan dia telah memukul Anwar hampir separuh mati. Siapakah dibelakang tangkapan ISA, keganasan polis dan cengkaman akhbar ini jika tidak seseorang yang sudah takut dia dipinggiri. - Editor] 2001/06/23/FFX6OUGU8OC.html

Bitter Mahathir slams divided party



Saturday 23 June 2001

At first glance there is little to reveal that it is now two full decades since this man first stepped up to his nation's leadership. He can still stand for two hours before the party faithful and deliver a message that resonates with passion to the last sentence. He can still maintain a routine that would test a man half his age, and to which he has just added the punishing load of finance minister.

Up close there are a few signs of time's toll: his jetblack hair is now tinged with grey, there is a weariness about the eyes and the first hints of a stoop as he strides into the room. But nothing attests to the fact that he is now in his 76th year and well past heart bypass surgery.

It is the message that betrays the reality that Dr Mahathir Mohamad is entering the twilight of his dominance in Malaysia's political landscape.

A new bitterness and frustration infects the familiar rhetoric; the vinegar of old is turning to venom. Where once he jousted with his adversaries, employing calibrated barbs, there are now crude and frontal assaults. Where once the invective against the Wicked White West was tempered with a playful cynicism, now there is raw hate and hurt.

When the United Malays National Organisation, the dominant party in Malaysia's ruling coalition, gathered this week for its annual congress, it was against a backdrop of turmoil probably unmatched since Dr Mahathir fought off a challenge to his leadership in the late 1980s and sent packing the first of four deputies with the temerity to eye his throne.

For the first time since independence, UMNO's grip on power appears to be under real threat. A series of scandals and internal upheavals has seen a sharp shift in support from the party's ethnic Malay heartland to an Opposition alliance headed by the Islamic party, PAS. That shift has been fuelled by disquiet at the ruthless dismissal three years ago of Dr Mahathir's popular deputy and anointed successor, Anwar Ibrahim, who is now serving a 15year jail sentence on widely discredited charges of corruption and sexual misconduct.

The party's problems have been compounded by a worsening economy and mounting evidence that party leaders, their friends and networks have enriched themselves through patronage and the manipulation of government contracts. The abrupt resignation earlier this month of Finance Minister Daim Zainuddin - after an outcry over costly government bailouts of companies controlled by prominent UMNO cronies - has compounded the smell of retribution about the party, which this month dismissed 12 middleranking officials and reprimanded another nine for alleged corruption and abuse of power .

Meanwhile, a crackdown on political dissent has further disquieted many ordinary Malaysians. Six prominent young opposition activists have now been jailed without trial for a minimum of two years under the Internal Security Act - despite one judge's ruling that there was no evidence of a conspiracy to topple the government, and that the police abused their powers. Fresh moves are also afoot to control criticism of the regime on the Internet.

In this political climate, the congress was anticipated as an opportunity for Dr Mahathir to reassert his authority and reassure the party with a strategy to restore UMNO's fortunes and answer the mounting doubts about his ability to save the day.

Instead, he delivered a litany of lament and abuse that conceded the extent of UMNO's problems - including the possibility it could lose the next election - but blamed virtually everyone apart from himself for the emerging crisis. Dr Mahathir berated the 2000 delegates, who mostly listened in stunned silence and gave an uneasy applause.

Malays were derided as ungrateful, irresponsible, greedy, corrupt, lazy, uneducated and disunited. The opposition were idiots, traitors and naive upstarts out to wreck his achievements in their lust for power, while foreigners, notably white governments, were scheming conspirators determined to recolonise Malaysia.

If the ISA arrests, the ostensible crackdown on internal corruption and the shedding of rival leaders left any doubt that Dr Mahathir has adopted a survival strategy based on bullying and scare tactics, it was dispelled by a stroll through the foyer of the convention centre where the UMNO congress was held.

In an exercise of the crudest propaganda, huge billboards were erected showing scenes of mayhem in Indonesia and the Balkans - a decapitated body being dragged behind a motorcycle, a distraught refugee mother and child, mutilated corpses, burning cars and buildings - all with big captions declaring: "This could happen here."

The departure of Daim Zainuddin may yet prove to be the turning point for Dr Mahathir, just as the sacking of Anwar Ibrahim three years ago galvanised a demoralised and disunited the Opposition and repelled many lifelong UMNO supporters.

Mr Daim was regarded as the Prime Minister's closest political ally. While he drew criticism for agreeing to spend hundreds of millions of government reserves propping up the ailing Malaysian airline and a failing dotcom venture - both companies run by close associates - he was also a respected economic manager given much of the credit for the 1980s boom that transformed Malaysia.

Mr Daim's exit has at once entrenched Dr Mahathir's dominance of UMNO and left him exposed. On one reading, the removal of the man regarded as the last in the party leadership willing and able to stand up to the Prime Minister has given Dr Mahathir unfettered control of economic policy and sounded a clear warning to others who might be tempted to cross him.

The alternative, and more persuasive view, is that Mr Daim's leaving has exposed both Dr Mahathir's desperation and his willingness to sacrifice lifelong allies to survive - while locking him into a position where he alone will be answerable for the country's fortunes if the anticipated global economic downturn bites.

The clear signal from the UMNO congress was that Dr Mahathir was determined to tough it out, convinced he was the only person capable of saving the party and the country whether they liked it or not.

"If I had my way, I would have stepped down in 1998 but circumstances did not allow me to," he told a news conference, conceding both the continuing fallout from his split with Mr Anwar and his lack of confidence in alternative successors. "Now, I am caught here, when some people would like me to disappear, disintegrate."

When asked whether he would lead the party into the election due in three years' time, he said: "I may be sick. I may fall down. I may be rejected by my party. I don't know." But the unspoken message of this week is that Mahathir Mohamad would rather die on the job - or ride the sinking ship down - than surrender amid the unravelling of his dream.