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Is Abdullah toying with the idea of a massive clampdown on dissent like the 1987 Operation Lalang which Mahathir launched six years after being Prime Minister – when Abdullah will only be marking the third anniversary of his premiership in two weeks’ time?
(Parliament, Tuesday) : Is Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi toying with the idea of a massive clampdown on dissent like the 1987 Operation Lalang which former premier Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad launched six years after becoming Prime Minister – when Abdullah will only be marking the third anniversary of his premiership in two weeks’ time?
Perceptive Malaysians find Abdullah’s comments on his return at the Royal Malaysian Air Force Base in Subang last evening after performing the umrah in Mecca.most ominous, when he as good as warned of repressive actions against “”trouble-makers”, particularly with his parting shot: "If people do good once, we can do so 10 times over. Once you do something bad, be careful ...'.
The national news agency, Bernama, immediately put up the Prime Minister’s threatening comments as its lead story, “Don't Try To Cause Trouble, Says PM”, and when I saw it in Geneva attending the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) Assembly, my first reaction was that the country was going back to the pre-Operation Lalang days before Oct. 27, 1987, which could not be good for Abdullah’s premiership, Malaysia’s nation-building which is to celebrate 50th National Day celebrations next year or to enhance Malaysia’s international competitiveness to reverse the tide to attract investments.
When a few
hours later, Bernama removed this lead story and it was also not to be
found in the list of online Bernama reports (although it continued to be
accessible), I interpreted it as “good sense having prevailed” and that
there was a belated realization that threats of repressive actions and
clampdowns cannot be an acceptable answer to demands for greater openness,
accountability, transparency and integrity in line with what Abdullah had
himself pledged and promised on becoming the fifth Prime Minister of
I hope that my interpretation was right, that after giving way briefly to the temptation of responding in a repressive manner to demands for greater openness, accountability, transparency and integrity, “good sense” had prevailed that this was not the right response – but for how long will such “good sense” prevail in the Abdullah premiership unless it is prepared to undertake a paradigm shift to fully embrace openness, accountability, transparency and integrity and all that these imply? Otherwise, the Abdullah premiership may end up as “Mahathirism without Mahathir”:
Former Deputy Prime Minister, Tun Musa Hitam, is worried and has advised all parties to stop having a public discourse on the racial equity share in the national economy, saying it could turn into something emotional.
Suggesting that the National Economic Action Council (NEAC) would be the useful forum to discuss the issue of corporate equity ownership, Musa referred to the “so many predators” in the “current mood in the country”: who are ”ready to grab the issue and irrationalise them and exploit them for their own political ends".
Musa may be referring to his former political boss, but Malaysians,;political leaders and citizens alike, must ponder why after nearly half-a-century of nationhood and 36 years after the promulgation of the New Economic Policy, questions and debate as to what are the facts about corporate equity ownership and distribution should become so sensitive and inflammable that they must be classified as the new “unmentionable” subject in public discourse?
I call on all Malaysians to exercise restraint and responsibility in the public discourse on the methodology and data on ethnic corporate equity ownership and distribution and not to allow it to degenerate into insensitive race-baiting or any form of “predatory” communal politics.
In 1970, public discourse and debate on the facts about corporate equity ownership and distribution was not regarded as “sensitive” as to be banned from the public domain. If in 2006, questions as to the actual facts about corporate equity ownership and distribution are to be banned from public discourse because it has become very sensitive, is Malaysia going forwards or backwards towards a “first class mentality”, knowledge-based economy, information society, good governance concepts of openness, accountability, transparency and integrity and a united multi-racial Malaysian nation?
Both the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister have said that there is no problem in making public the methodology and data for the official computation of ethnic corporate equity ownership and distribution by the Economic Planning Unit (EPU).
This should be the case for Malaysia will become an international laughing stock if official methodology and data continue to be shrouded in secrecy after over three decades raising questions about their credibility and legitimacy.
What the Cabinet should do tomorrow is to honour the public statements by the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister to make public the methodology and data for the EPU computation of ethnic corporate equity ownership and distribution, giving real meaning to the pledges of the Abdullah premiership on openness, accountability, transparency, integrity and good governance.
Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic
Planning Commission Chairman
Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman