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SMH: M'sia's Lion in Winter Tilts at Multitude of Enemies
By Mark Baker

25/6/2001 4:36 am Mon

[Mahathir sudah naik darah sehingga memarahi semua orang kecuali dirinya. Seolah-olah hanya dia betul belaka sehingga memujuk bagai sikecil agar ahli Umno mentaatinya sebulat hati kerana apa yang dilakarnya dan dipilihnya lebih baik dari pilihan semua ahli Umno. Maknanya dia mengangkat dirinya lebih pandai dari ribuan ahli Umno dan tidak menghormati pandangan semua. Kekalahan calun Umno/BN misalnya, disandarkan sebabnya kepada ahli Umno yang tidak menyokong pilihannya pula. Padahal Umno semakin kecundang sejak Mahathir mengaibkan Anwar tanpa dalil dan hujah syarie.

Nampaknya semua yang busuk ditolak kepada orang lain belaka dan yang molek-molek dikaut untuknya sahaja. Yang peliknya ahli Umno bertepuk dan mengangguk sahaja semuanya!! Alangkah dungunya. Bukankah gambar Mahathir yang tersenyum di Lunas itu antara sebab BN kecundang di sana? Ia tertewas dengan gambar lebam Anwar cuma tanpa perlu pembangkang banyak menghabiskan suara.

Mahathir sekarang menggunakan tektik kasar membuli dan menakutkan orang. Dia akan mematahkan tengkuk siapa sahaja walaupun 'kawan lamo' asalkan dapat bertahan. Dan dia tidak malu menggunakan ISA walaupun itu tidak jantan. Dengan tidak memberi jawapan yang tepat bilakah dia akan bersara serta menghentam semua orang jelaslah Mahathir lebih rela kojol dipersada kuasa - atau terus mengemudi bahtera yang sedang karam - daripada menyerah diri mengaku kalah dalam keaiban.
- Editor

Sydney Morning Herald

SMH Saturday, June 23, 2001

Malaysia's lion in winter tilts at multitude of enemies

By Mark Baker, Herald Correspondent in Kuala Lumpur

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 work and travel 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: the jet black mane is now tinged with grey, there is an unfamiliar weariness about the eyes and the first hints of a stoop are evident 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 which betrays the reality that Dr Mahathir Mohamad is entering the twilight of his singular dominance of Malaysia's political landscape.

A new bitterness and frustration infects the familiar rhetoric; the vinegar of old is turning to venom. Where once the Prime Minister jousted with his adversaries, employing calibrated and clever barbs, there are now crude and frontal assaults. Where once the hallmark 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 the ruling coalition, gathered this week for its annual congress, it was against a backdrop of turmoil probably unmatched since Dr Mahathir fought off a concerted challenge to his leadership in the late 1980s and sent packing the first of four deputies with the temerity to eye his throne.

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 middle-ranking officials and reprimanded another nine for alleged corruption and abuse of power .

A tough crackdown of political dissent has further disquietened many Malaysians. In this stormy political climate, the congress was expected to be an opportunity for Dr Mahathir to reassert his authority and reassure the party with a bold 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 - and the possibility that it could lose the next election - but blamed virtually everyone but himself for the emerging crisis. Like an angry school master, Dr Mahathir berated the 2,000 delegates, who mostly listened in stunned silence and gave lukewarm applause at the end.

Malays, variously, were derided as ungrateful, irresponsible, greedy, corrupt, lazy, uneducated and disunited. The Opposition were idiots, traitors and naive upstarts out to wreck his monumental achievements in their brazen lust for power. Foreigners, notably the white governmental variety, were scheming conspirators determined to recolonise Malaysia and enslave once more the unwitting Malay race.

If arrests under the Internal Security Act, 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 - past a huge mural that portrays Mahathir as virtually the lone architect of Malaysia's latter-day prosperity.

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 towards triumph or political oblivion for Dr Mahathir, just as the sacking of Anwar Ibrahim three years ago galvanised a demoralised and disunited Opposition and repelled many lifelong UMNO supporters.

Mr Daim's exit has at once entrenched 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 able and willing 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 the desperation of Dr Mahathir's predicament and his willingness to sacrifice even lifelong allies to survive.

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

The unspoken message of this week is that Mahathir Mohamad would rather die in the job - or ride the sinking ship down - than surrender amid the unravelling of his dream.