(Petaling Jaya, Tuesday): I support the call by the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad in Langkawi yesterday that Malaysians should set aside their political differences and defend the country’s economic freedom.
Mahathir said the time had come for the people to work together in an orderly manner to protect the country. He urged the people to unite irrespective of their political stand, saying that they must be persistent, disciplined and willing to face all these challenges.
If Malaysians are to set aside their political differences to defend the country’s economic freedom, it is not only the Opposition parties putting aside their political differences and being prepared to work with the Barisan Nasional government, the Barisan Nasional government and constituent parties must also be prepared to put aside their political differences and work with the Opposition in the larger national good.
This is why the DAP had proposed an Opposition-headed National Economic Crisis Consultative Council (NECCC) comprising representatives from all political parties, both government and opposition, academicians, industry, commerce, trade unions, professional bodies, NGOs, so that it could be a nationally unifying force to unite and mobilise all Malaysians behind a national economic recovery programme to tide the country through the economic crisis in the shortest time possible.
The proposal for an Opposition-headed NECCC is a commitment by the Opposition that although they are not part of the problem, they are prepared to be part of the solution to the national economic crisis by making their contribution to bring about an united response to the crisis from the government, society and people, cutting across all political differences.
However, if Malaysia is to succeed to get all Malaysians to set aside their political differences and defend the country’s economic freedom, the Barisan Nasional government should discard the attitude and presumption that it knows best what is good for the country and what is left for the people to do is to obediently listen and follow the government’s instructions.
The first thing the government must admit is that it cannot claim to know best what is good for the country or the economic crisis would not have dragged into its seventh month, with the worst still yet to come.
The government must be prepared to admit its mistakes and weaknesses and listen with an open mind the views and proposals of all sectors of society as to how to overcome the national economic crisis.
There should, in other words, be greater democracy and public participation during the national economic crisis rather than more repression of human rights and suppression of information and the mass media of information and the mass media as is being suggested in some quarters.
This is why I had suggested that all political parties, whether ruling or opposition, should meet once a month on the national economic crisis, and I hope that this proposal would receive serious consideration by the Prime Minister and government.