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Malaysia opposition terms riot predictions 'revolting lie'

Date: 23 Nov 1999
Time: 19:54:42


Malaysia opposition terms riot predictions 'revolting lie'

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 23 (AFP) - Malaysia's opposition alliance Tuesday called predictions of election-related riots by its supporters a "revolting lie" as the ruling coalition switched tack in its campaign advertising.

The ruling National Front adverts have focused on street disturbances sparked by the jailing and prison treatment this year of ex-deputy premier Anwar Ibrahim.

The advertisements featured photos of rioters with the message that the opposition alliance had "no respect for the law, no fear of the authorities (and) no regard for the safety of others."

Anwar, serving six years for abusing his official powers, is the Alternative Front's candidate for prime minister in the November 29 polls.

Analysts say the advertisements are aimed at business-linked Chinese voters, with Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad more eager than ever to woo them after Anwar's treatment split the ethnic Malay community.

Mahathir has frequently alleged that the opposition is planning street clashes and has recalled the 1969 anti-Chinese race riots -- the most traumatic event since independence in 1957.

Parties in the opposition Alternative Front (Barisan Alternatif) have lodged complaints with police over the adverts, which they say breach election and other laws.

The Alternative Front, in a statement, said a "climate of fear" created by the ruling coalition had reached fever pitch in recent days.

"Three times in five days Mahathir has wickedly alleged that the Barisan Alternatif will riot a few days before polling when it realises it will lose the elections," the statement said.

"This is a revolting lie," it said, urging Mahathir to end talk of rioting.

The Alternative Front, alleging gerrymandering and tacitly acknowledging it cannot take power when the National Front has a fourth-fifths parliamentary majority, said it entered the campaign "fully prepared to fight the good fight but also fully prepared to lose."

It added: "It is the Barisan Nasional (National Front) that cannot and will not countenance a loss. This is clear from the fact that even a BN win without a two-thirds majority is seen by the BN as a loss."

The opposition says ending the two-thirds majority would be a check on an all-powerful government that has held power since independence.

The alliance groups the National Justice Party headed by Anwar's wife, the Islamic Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS), the Chinese-dominated Democratic Action Party and the small Malaysian People's Party.

The National Front, in its latest full-page advertisements Tuesday, hit out at the disparate alliance. "They jump into bed together but do they share the same dream for the country?" one asked with a cartoon of leading figures from the four parties in bed together.

The PAS and its controversial Kelantan state chief minister Nik Aziz Nik Mat were also lampooned. The National Front is depicting PAS, which supports an Islamic state in Malaysia, as an extremist party.

"Today, PAS wants to take away the rights of women because of their looks," the headline read. "Tomorrow, what else?"

Nik Aziz, who rules the only opposition-held state, has suggested pretty women not be allowed to work there since they are more likely to find rich husbands. He says the remark was a joke.

Mahathir held talks Tuesday morning with Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji, whose visit in the midst of the campaign has been criticised by the opposition as an electioneering gimmick aimed at wooing votes from ethnic Chinese.

Tuesday afternoon Mahathir was due to fly to Sabah state on Borneo island to continue a punishing election schedule in which the 73-year-old premier will travel thousands of kilometres.

Last changed: November 23, 1999