[ Contents | Post ]
Date: 14 Dec 1999
Malaysia's premier blames lies, bribes and ingrates for loss of support
TOKYO, Dec 14 (AFP) - Malaysia's Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad Tuesday lashed out at lies, bribes and ungrateful Malays for eroding his support in general elections last month. In his monthly newspaper column published here, Mahathir fiercely attacked the Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) and the effects of Western liberalism which he said had been spread by his jailed former deputy Anwar Ibrahim.
Despite retaining a two-thirds majority in the November 29 polls, "the government's majority and the margins we won by have been significantly reduced," he wrote in the Mainichi Daily News.
"Ordinarily, a government that had fended off a vicious attack on its economy and had turned around the economy so decisively would have gained the support of the people," said the column, Dr Mahathir's World Analysis.
But Malays "did not really suffer" from the Asian economic crisis, the premier said.
Instead, the issues for them "are based on the perceptions of the new educated elite who had been exposed both to Western liberalism while studying abroad and to the more extreme variety of Islam as preached by the PAS."
Anwar had thrown corruption accusations at the government to help his own cause, said Mahathir.
The former deputy prime minister had been removed from office for "unacceptable immoral activities" but his alleged misdeeds were ignored despite an open court case, said the premier.
Anwar, once seen as a challenger to Mahathir, was jailed for six years in April for abusing his official powers and is now on trial for sodomy.
But "he succeeded in convincing his followers that the court was taking orders from the prime minister," said the prime minister.
Meanwhile the "educated elites" believed the corruption accusations, said Mahathir, adding that many of them had been "cultivated and even indoctrinated by PAS while they were still students."
The premier said his United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) had managed to bridge much of the wealth gap between Malays and ethnic Chinese following race riots which erupted in 1969.
"Unfortunately, any gratefulness and appreciation were undermined by PAS which got at the students early and taught them that any government would have done the same for them."
Mahathir said PAS told the students to only thank Allah, nobody else including the government, a policy which was "against the true teachings of Islam."
"Once the sense of obligation towards a paternalistic UMNO-led government is destroyed, PAS is able to gain unquestioned support by claiming PAS is all Islam and all Muslims must support PAS," he added.
"From then on, PAS could tell lies and even denigrate God and it would still retain the unstinting support of its members and followers."
PAS and not the secular opposition proved the biggest winner from the issue of Anwar, whose sacking and mistreatment at the hands of police last year divided the sympathies of ethnic Malays.
PAS more than tripled its parliamentary seats to 27, kept control of Kelantan state assembly in the northern Malay heartland and captured neighbouring Terengganu.
Mahathir added he was grateful Malaysia had been able to enjoy stable, peaceful and rapid development while practising democracy, which was the best political system despite being far from perfect.
"I am not sure that this will always be so," he added. "The recent election shows that lies and bribes and empty promises for the afterlife can win seats and put unprincipled people in power."