Mohamad Rahmat is doing the national economic recovery programme a great disservice as the symbol of the "denial syndrome" in government by trying to pin all the blame for the national economic crisis on external factors


Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya, Tuesday): Information Minister, Datuk Mohamed Rahmat yesterday called on Malaysians from all walks of life to "seriously do their bit in helping the Government revive the economy".

He said: "Whether they are politicians, government officials or members of the public, they need to sacrifice and tighten their belt especially in spending money.

"We are facing a national issue which is not our own doing but caused by outside forces. There is no other way to face this but sacrifice to help the Government." Mohamad Rahmat is doing the national economic recovery programme a great disservice as the symbol of the "denial syndrome" in government by trying to pin all the blame for the national economic crisis on external factors. In continuing such a stance, Mohamed Rahmat would be undermining all efforts at uniting and mobilising Malaysians to act in unison to face up to the economic crisis, as the government would lack credibility to rally the people together because of his continued personification of the "denial factor".

Mohamed Rahmatís former boss and former Deputy Prime Minister, Tan Sri Musa Hitam, struck the nail on the head last month when he identified the "denial factor" as a major obstacle to restoring confidence and enabling troubled economies in the region from embarking on the road to economic recovery.

He said that the "denial factor", reflected by a continual denial that something was wrong within the countries themselves, was too high in the region and expressed the hope that the formation of the National Economic Action Council was a sign that the government was reducing the "denial factor" in addressing the country's economic problems.

Instead of demonstrating to Malaysians that the government has abandoned the "denial syndrome", Mohamed Rahmat is telling the whole world that the "denial factor" is still dominating the thinking of Cabinet Ministers and major policy-makers.

The British weekly, The Economist, recently likened government reactions to the economic turmoil to phases of reaction to death: shock, anger, denial and acceptance.

All the other countries in Asia which have been hard hit by the economic turmoil have passed through the first three phases of shock, anger and denial and are in the final phase of acceptance, to enable them to chart a rational strategy to plot the recovery of their economies.

Malaysia is the sole exception as we stand out as the only country where the leaders are still in the "denial" stage after five months of the economic crisis. I had hoped that the emergency financial package by the Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim last Friday signified the end of the "denial" phase of the Cabinet but I seem to be wrong.

I am e very disappointed to read Mohamed Rahmat statementís in todayís press (Star), which shows that the first problem to be addressed if Malaysia is to get on the road to national economic recovery is to educate Cabinet Ministers to abandon the "denial syndrome".

Government Ministers should stop claiming that there were nothing wrong with government policies or to take the easy way out by just blaming George Soros for every deterioration of our economic crisis, whether it be the bloodbath in the Kuala Lumpur stock exchange after the UEM-Renong deal last month which proved to be a national catastrophe or the free fall of the Malaysian ringgit last week after Mahathir's land-bridge announcement.

I do not know whether Mohamed Rahmat is capable of learning to abandon the "denial syndrome" and be a rallying point for Malaysians to unite to face the national economic crisis, instead of being an object of derision and division.

I said in Parliament yesterday that the time has clearly come for a major Cabinet reshuffle, for the infusion of new blood into a Cabinet, and the replacement of several Ministers who seem to be quite lost in a fast-changing world brought about by information technology and globalisation.

If Mohamed Rahmat cannot demonstrate that he could abandon the "denial syndrome", then my call for a major Cabinet reshuffle would be even more relevant and urgent.

(9/12/97)


*Lim Kit Siang - Malaysian Parliamentary Opposition Leader, Democratic Action Party Secretary-General & Member of Parliament for Tanjong