(Petaling Jaya, Wednesday): I am surprised by the statement by the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad accusing the opposition parties of not "extending any form of co-operation to the Government in its efforts to bring about speedy economic recovery" and for using the current economic problems to fish for votes and gain popularity.
DAP reiterates that we will not politicise the country's worst economic crisis and we are still waiting for the Barisan Nasional government to be fully responsible, open and transparent to mobilise the government, society and people into one unit to fully restore confidence and effect an economic turnaround and recovery in the shortest possible time with the minimum of avoidable of hardships, suffering and pain to the people.
Mahathir had chosen to jump on my statement in Ipoh on Sunday that the Opposition parties would win more seats in the next general elections because of the growing dissatisfactions of the people over many issues, such as the national economic crisis, to accuse the Opposition of "using the current economic problems to fish for votes and gain popularity".
I had said that the Opposition is likely do better in the next general elections as compared to the April 1995 general elections when the DAP suffered its worst electoral defeat in three decades, but how better is something no one can tell - whether it is winning back a few, most or all the seats which the DAP had held previously held is something nobody knows. In fact, even before the economic crisis started in July last year, the Barisan Nasional had been suffering a series of setbacks in by-elections since the April 1995 general elections, the most notable of which were the parliamentary by-elections in Bagan in September 1995 and in Teluk Intan in May 1997.
As a political party, the DAP wants to win more seats in general elections, but we do not want to do so at the expense of the sufferings and hardships of the people - and definitely not at the price of the country going through its worst economic crisis in the nation's history and after ten months, still no light at the end of the tunnel.
As a political party which have always put national interests above all other interests, DAP leaders had right from the beginning of the crisis extended their fullest co-operation to the Government to try to bring about speedy economic recovery by pointing out the factors and causes which are aggravating the economic crisis, impeding the restoration of confidence and inhibiting a speedy economic turnaround and recovery.
I hope we have not reached a stage where from accusing foreign speculators and factors for being the main cause of the national economic crisis, there will be people who want to accuse the Opposition for being the main reasons why there is no speedy economic turnaround and recovery.
If I have to choose between a speedy national economic recovery and greater DAP electoral recovery, I will unhesitatingly choose the former and this is why the DAP had not been sparing in our proposals as to how the government could best effect a quick economic turnaround and recovery, including my Open Letter to all Cabinet Ministers before their first 1998 Cabinet meeting on January 5 on the 15 Measures to restore confidence and put the Malaysian economy back on the road to recovery.
If DAP is only interested in political mileage and electoral gains from the economic crisis, then the DAP will not consistently, inside and outside Parliament, press the Government to stop malpractices such as crony capitalism, bail-outs of favoured companies and individuals whether at the expense of public funds or the interests of minority shareholders, and corrupt practices, for the more rampant such malpractices, the more alienated the people would become and the more votes the DAP would get in the next general elections.
By speaking up loud and clear against such malpractices and giving the Government the opportunity to eliminate them and win back popular support, the DAP is showing our greatest loyalty and patriotism to the country for we are putting national interests above our own party interests, even if the net result is that the DAP will not be able to capitalise on the dissatisfactions of the people in the next general elections.