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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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.