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Malaysia minister complains of "foreign focus" on opposition

Date: 25 Nov 1999
Time: 19:25:03


Malaysia minister complains of "foreign focus" on opposition

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 25 (AFP) - A Malaysian minister complained Thursday of a "foreign focus" on the opposition in upcoming elections and told it not to rely on overseas aid.

The comments by International Trade Minister Rafidah Aziz follow claims by Abdul Azim Zabidi, a senior official of the ruling party's youth wing, that embassies are funding opposition parties ahead of teh November 29 polls.

Rafidah was quoted by the official Bernama news agency as saying in response to the report: "To me, you swim or sink with your country, that's the hallmark of a true Malaysian.

"You don't ask outsiders to come and help you... you should win elections because Malaysians chose and voted for you."

No proof has been offered that the missions identified by Abdul -- the US, British, Canadian and Australian embassies -- have funded the opposition and all have strongly denied this.

Syed Hamid Albar, foreign minister said, four envoys from the above countries were summoned to the foreign ministry Thursday and reminded not to interfere in Malaysia's internal affairs.

"The most important thing in diplomatic relations is not to interfere

in the internal affairs of a country," he was quoted by the official Bernama news agency as saying.

"When outsiders interfere in political affairs, it means that they have done something impolite and breached the ethics in diplomatic relations between countries," he added.

Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, who heads the National Justice Party, told AFP the foreign diplomats attended opposition "talks" to be able to write about Malaysia's political climate and denied any foreign assistance for the opposition.

"They are very wise to come and listen to us. I think they are just doing their duty rightly -- to be able to know what both sides are doing," she said.

Wan Azizah, wife of sacked deputy premier Anwar Ibrahim, vehemently denied that foreign missions were providing funds for the opposition.

"No, No," she said.

Rafidah said although the embassies had denied any role, "it is clear that there is this foreign focus on the opposition in Malaysia rather than a balanced focus on the opposition and the government.

"In the foreign media, you find stories related more to what the opposition is doing and interviews done with opposition members only to show discontent with the government," she said.

Rafidah said it was clear that some foreign media were working for the interests of the opposition.

On Thursday the Malay-language Berita Harian newspaper quoted Deputy Home Minister Azmi Khalid as saying any diplomats found to have engaged in local politics could be deported.

"We are currently looking for evidence, including pictures, to prove their involvement," Azmi said.

Lim Kit Siang, head of the opposition Democratic Action Party, called the claims of foreign funding "outrageous" and said his party had "not received a single sen" (the smallest coin) from any embassy.

Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who frequently criticises foreign journalists for alleged bias, has been stressing his coalition's achievements in defending Malaysia's independence from what he sees as threats by foreign forces.

Last changed: November 25, 1999