(Petaling Jaya, Tuesday): Last night, my speech in Parliament on the 1998 budget was among the RTM headline news, and was the first item over the 8 p.m. Radio 4 news update. This is the first time in my 31 years in Malaysian politics when what I said, either in Parliament or outside, was given the headline news treatment over RTM.
RTM reported that in my speech on the 1998 budget in Parliament yesterday, I said that the DAP, though an opposition party, gave full support to the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, if the United States or any Western nation attempted to interfere in the domestic affairs of Malaysia by wanting to force a change of political leadership not to its liking. It reported that I said that whether Mahathir remained as Prime Minister was a matter strictly to be decided by Malaysians, and it was no business either of the United States or any other Western nation to dictate to Malaysia as to who should be the Prime Minister.
RTM news reported me correctly what I had said, but it did not give the context in which I had made this statement.
RTM would have presented a more accurate picture if it had reported that I was commenting on the New Sunday Times cartoon of Uncle Sam making use of Western media to force Malaysians to change the political leadership with the threat: "Change Your Leaders Or We Will Take All Your Money."
Furthermore, the RTM should have reported that in my speech, I made it very clear that I did not buy the conspiracy theory that there is an international plot, whether involving Western governments, foreign mass media or Jewish, to force the resignation of Mahathir as Prime Minister.
This was why in my speech in Parliament, I called on Malaysians not to "fall easy prey to the conspiracy theory of an international mass media or Jewish plot" to force a change of leadership through engineering the twin currency and stock market crisis without proper evidence or substantiation.
In fact, in my speech in Parliament yesterday, I urged the government and people "not to take the easy way out by blaming our economic woes on an international mass media or Jewish conspiracy. Where we have made mistakes, let us be honest and brave enough to admit them and make corrections."
This was why I had said in Parliament during the debate on the Bernama Amendment Bill last Thursday that the fundamental issue facing the country is one of confidence in our economy and not the question of confidence in Mahathir as Prime Minister, and why I criticised the various public meetings, demonstrations and even the wearing of North Korean-type of badges by the 30,000 National Union of Bank Employees with the words "NUBE Supports Dr. Mahathir" as utterly unproductive and should be stopped.
This was also why I had said in Parliament last week that if the issue was one of confidence in Mahathir as Prime Minister, then the correct thing for the government to do would be to introduce a motion of confidence in Parliament which is the proper forum to decide whether Mahathir has the constitutional mandate to continue as Prime Minister.
Although an Opposition party, the DAP has always placed the interests of the country and people as of utmost paramount importance.
This is why I declared in Parliament yesterday that the DAP is prepared to give full and unstinting support to the Prime Minister and the Government in efforts to overcome the twin currency and stock market crisis, and in particular, to restore confidence in the Malaysian economy.
This is however not a blind support, and this is why I stressed in my speech in Parliament:
"We cannot, however, give a blank-cheque of support, such as endorsing the various outbursts by Mahathir which had led to new rounds of crisis in the currency and the stockmarket, and we would urge the Prime Minister to exercise the fullest of restraint in his pronouncements at this delicate stage of trying to restore confidence in the economy unless he substantiate his allegations - like the allegation that there is a Jewish conspiracy and agenda to undermine the Malaysian economy.
"For instance, we cannot countenance the condemnation of Malaysians who have dissenting views from those of the Government as ‘traitors’ or the threat to invoke the Internal Security Act against journalists, writers, financial analysts and economists who dare to depart from the official line - and for a period in August, the crisis atmosphere in Malaysia was so ominous that many thought there could be a repetition of Operation Lalang ten years ago with mass arrests of dissenters - which only deepened the sense of economic and national crisis in the country."
I hope Mahathir would take serious note of these views as there is undoubtedly considerable domestic nervousness as to what he would say when he attends the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Edinburgh later this week, and would not drop another bombshell triggering another round of currency and stock market free-fall as he did when he visited Chile early this month.