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Ability to manage differences in the Mahathir spat with Abdullah a test of maturity of democracy and nation-building in Malaysia


Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang  

, Wednesday) Deputy Prime Minister and UMNO Deputy President, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said that former Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad’s spat with the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi will not “erode investor confidence”.


He said: “I think we can convince them that this is a stable Government and we have a strong mandate. The party (Umno) is strong and we will explain the matter to the people.”


The reactions from UMNO Ministers and leaders however belie such assurance and confidence and seem to approximate responses from quarters that it could “threaten public order and give adverse impact to the national economy”.


The public differences between a former Prime Minister and the incumbent Prime Minister is not unprecedented in Malaysia, as it had happened before, particularly in the differences between the first and third Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman and Tun Hussein Onn with Mahathir as the fourth Prime Minister in the eighties.


The ability to “manage differences” between the former Prime Minister and  the present Prime Minister, without undermining the national economy  or public order, is a test of the maturity not only of the democratic experiment in Malaysia but also the half-century nationhood next year.


Abdullah must dismiss all possibility that the old Mahathirish  methods of dealing with differences, particularly the  abuse of arbitrary  powers like the invocation of the Internal Security Act such as the  Operation Lalang mass arrests in 1987, could ever happen under his premiership.


In fact, Mahathir’s spat with Abdullah has served to focus on what will be Abdullah’s legacy as the fifth Prime Minister – whether to deliver his reform pledge in the 2004 general election to create a clean, incorruptible, efficient, accountable, transparent, democratic and just administration or just be a clone of the previous Mahathir premiership.


Abdullah must demonstrate and dare to show his  difference with the Mahathir premiership – in line with his 2006 election pledge which had given him the biggest election mandate ever won by any Prime Minister.


The legitimate questions raised by Mahathir must be answered, if not by Abdullah himself then by the government. The earlier statement that Ministers will be answering the issues raised by Mahathir has yet to be satisfactorily fulfilled.


But even more important than the issues which Mahathir had raised, which must be answered if Abdullah is to demonstrate the  difference between his premiership from that of his predecessor, is for Abdullah  to start “walk the talk” to deliver his long-delayed reform pledge and programme, including the establishment of the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC).



*  Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman

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