(Petaling Jaya, Wednesday): It is reported today that a 2,000-people rally is being planned by the Federal Territory Youth Council to express support for Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamed at Dataran Merdeka on Sunday.
In another show of support, the National Union of Bank Employees (NUBE) has directed its 30,000 members to wear special badges for three days to show their support for the Prime Minister. The badges bear the words NUBE Supports Dr. Mahathir.
The NUBE action is very reminiscent of North Korean tactics to muster and mobilise support for the Great Leader, and it is very sad that we Malaysians who aim to make the quantum leap from an industrial-based economy into an information-based economy and to take full part in the digital revolution in the next millennium, should be learning from the North Koreans whose tactics and policies have created the wost starvation and famine for millions of North Koreans.
Over the past two weeks, a lot of energies had been expended on showing that the country had full support in Mahathir as Prime Minister, whether by Barisan Nasional component parties and leaders, Barisan Nasional Members of Parliament and Senators, chambers of commerce, professional and youth organisations.
I understand that there would be a meeting at the Putra World Trade Centre tomorrow to garner support for the Prime Minister by various dignitaries and eminent personages.
Even the opposition parties had been roped in as expressing full confidence and support for the Prime Minister, through distorted reporting.
For instance, the Star of Oct. 7 carried the headline "Parties pledge full support for Dr M", quoting DAP National Chairman, Dr. Chen Man Hin as saying that "if Dr. Mahathir resigned now it would cause economic instability and a further fall of the ringgit and the stock market".
However, an important qualification of Dr. Chenís statement was omitted, giving a completely different picture of the statement.
This is what Dr. Chen said in his statement on 6th October 1997:
"At this juncture the resignation of Dr. Mahathir would not help matters but would create instability and a further fall of the ringgit and stock market.
"On the other hand, if the prime minister persists by over-reacting to the crisis through his outbursts in Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong and Chile, then the crisis would deteriorate, and the call for his resignation will rise from the present murmuring to a crescendo.
"It is vital at this stage to restore confidence in the people and among foreign investors."
It is most unfortunate that Mahathir had not heeded the advice given by Dr. Chen, as last Friday, Mahathir was quoted as saying in Kuala Terengganu that the speculative attacks on the ringgit could be the work of Jews who are uncomfortable with the progress of Muslim nations.
I was quite taken aback by Mahathirís latest outburst, which I said was bound to raise eyebrows everywhere, and called on the Prime Minister to substantiate his latest statement. Otherwise, it would be seen as the latest of a series of recent "out-of-place" pronouncements by him.
Although Mahathir subsequently denied that he had said or implied that there was a Jewish conspiracy to impede the economy of Malaysia or other Muslim countries, more unnecessary damage had been done to the paramount task of restoring investor confidence, both local and international, in the Malaysian economy which is the most important condition to address the Malaysian economic crisis.
Although some Western and even ASEAN newspapers had been very critical of Mahathirís various pronouncements, even with The Nation, the Thai English-language newspaper, coming out with an editorial on Monday that "after 16 years in power, Mahathir has outlived his usefulness", the constitutional position of Mahathir as Prime Minister is very strong and clear.
Mahathirís position as Prime Minister depends on whether he continues to enjoy parliamentary support and not on the criticisms of foreign mass media.
The central issue of the nation today is to address the national economic crisis rather than to embark on a series of unproductive activities like organising public meetings and demonstrations and even wearing North Korean-type of badges expressing support.
If the Federal Territory Youth Council wants to organise a public rally, it should organise one on the national haze disaster to demand "Clean Air for Our Children - Let the 1997 Haze be the last worst haze" and to ask the Malaysian Government to submit a bill of compensation for the billions of ringgit of losses incurred by Malaysia as a result of the raging thousands of forest and plantation fires causing a global environmental disaster.
The Opposition had not asked for the resignation of Mahathir as Prime Minister. However, if Mahathir feels it necessary to demonstrate to the world that he still commands the confidence of the people to continue as Prime Minister, then he should defer the debate on the 1998 Budget on Monday and move an emergency motion of confidence in him as Prime Minister.
With the nine-tenth parliamentary majority enjoyed by the Barisan Nasional, there should be no doubt that such a confidence motion would get overwhelming parliamentary support, so that the country can move on to address the national economic crisis rather than indulging in the unproductive activities of public demonstrations and wearing North-Korean type of badges to show support.