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Mahathir urged to learn from Indonesia

Date: 01 Dec 1999
Time: 02:01:49


Mahathir urged to learn from Indonesia

JAKARTA, Dec 1 (AFP) - Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad should take a lesson from the historic changes in Indonesia and bend to calls for greater democracy in his country, the Jakarta Post said Wednesday.

Mahathir on Monday won an unprecedented fifth term with his National Front coalition winning 148 of the 193 parliamentary seats and keeping power in nine of 11 state assemblies.

He is now Asia's longest serving elected leader, having adopted the mantle after the fall of former Indonesian president Suharto in May 1998 who stepped down after 32 years amid political and social upheavals here.

But the results also saw big gains for the Islamic opposition in Malaysia after the sacking and jailing of ex-deputy premier Anwar Ibrahim divided the sympathies of ethnic Malays.

The results should serve as a wake-up call to Mahathir in power for 18 years, the Jakarta Post warned in an editorial.

"Mahathir, obviously, should lend an ear to the demands of his people and realize that a government that offers economic prosperity alone with no social justice and democracy can never win its people's full support." the English-language daily wrote.

"It is expected, therefore that Mahathir will be more open and receptive to public criticism, especially clarifying the opposition's allegations of his giving favours to his cronies in the country's big projects and other issues of abuse of power.

"He should best learn from Indonesia's experience that, in an era of reform and the prevalence of democratisation process in the region, he could not but give greater freedom of speech and fairer distribution of wealth to his people.

"No less important is that arrests of those critical of him and his government ... should no longer happen if he wants to demonstrate to the world that he rules Malaysia democratically."

Mahathir had watched warily the toppling of Suharto in May 1998, fearing the upheaval in his giant neighbour could have a knock-on effect in Malaysia.

Since Suharto's fall, Indonesia has witnessed monumental changes, including the release of scores of political prisoners jailed under the former strongman and the establishment of special commissions to investigate past excesses and abuses.

The new government of President Abdurrahman Wahid has pledged to end the culture of corruption and nepotism which was fostered under Suharto.

And Suharto himself is also under investigation amid allegations that his family stashed away a fortune during his rule.

Last changed: December 01, 1999