(Parliament House, Monday): If there is justice, freedom, democracy and good governance in Malaysia, then the country would be spared many of its crises and agonies and the crisis of confidence would not have become so protracted and intractable.
The Singapore Business Times reported today that UEM and Renong, with their huge bad debts, would be among the first beneficiaries of the Asset Management Corporation (AMC) to be bailed out. It reported that the two groups have a total of RM19 billion worth of loans, of which 32 per cent is seen as currently at risk.
The Kuala Lumpur Stock Market benchmark Composite Index fell below 500 points this morning, and the Malaysian ringgit has also fallen below the RM4=US$1 level, showing that the economic road ahead is going to be a very bleak and difficult one.
The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad has at last admitted that it would take some time before there could be an economic recovery, although in January, he was talking in terms of a time-frame of six months for an economic recovery.
The whole problem stems from the governmentís failure to restore confidence. The announcement of the AMC was meant to be an injection of confidence into the market, which it failed to achieve, because of general fears that the AMC would end up as a bail-out agency for selected companies and iindividuals.
If the Singapore Business Times report that the first beneficiaries of the AMC would be UEM and Renong, then this will strengthen suspicion that the AMC, where 60 per cent of its fund would come from the government, would just be a bail-out agency, plunging confidence to a new low.
I call on Mahathir or the Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim to clarify whether UEM and Renong would be the first beneficiaries of the AMC.
The government has said that the AMC is modelled after the Resolution Trust Corporation (RTC) of the United States during the Savings and Loans Association scandal/crisis in the late eighties. The most important reason why the RTC was a success was because it was operated by the Federal Reserve, which has the reputation of being the most autonomous bank in the world, which would not brook interference from any quarter - including the President of the United States.
Do we have a Bank Negara or an AMC which has a public reputation of being absolutely independent and impartial, which could not be subject to executive iinterference whether by the Prime Minister or any influential political lleader?
Call on Mahathir to convene a Round-Table Conference of all political parties and NGOs to draft a programme of political reforms and democratisation
It is a matter of grave concern that some leaders seem to be drawing the wrong lessons from Suhartoís downfall and the Indonesian crisis, blaming it on the failure on Suharto to impose a crackdown in Indonesia.
I call on Mahathir to banish all thoughts about a crackdown on civil liberties and democratic freedoms as an answer to the Malaysian national crisis.
Instead, Mahathir should convene a Round-Table Conference of all political parties and NGOs to draft a programme of political reforms and democratisation so that Malaysia would be better positioned to overcome the worst economic crisis in the nationís history in the shortest possible time with the minimum of avoidable hardships and sufferings to the people.
The Council of Justice, Freedom, Democracy and Good Governance will have a programme of activities to raise the level of public consciousness and commitment to create a just, free and democratic Malaysia under a good government.
Our first programme will be to organise a Sympathy, Support and Solidarity with Lim Guan Eng forum at Bukit Senggeh, Malacca on 24th June 1998 at 8 p.m. This will be the second Malay kampong to host the Sympathy, Support and Solidarity with Lim Guan Eng campaign and I hope the police will co-operate and grant the police permit for the function, which would be sought.