(Parit Jawa, Friday): The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad made to the cover of the latest issue of Time magazine (June 15, 1998), which carried a cover article under the headline "Broken Dreams" with the following heading: "As Malaysia slips into recession, Prime Minister Mahathir is blaming everyone - except himself. Can ĎDr. Mí survive the regionís turmoils?"
In a two-page intervierw for the Time cover story, Mahathir started by declaring: "I never subscribed to the theory that this was going to be a short crisis".
This was of course not what Mahathir said in January this year, when he spoke of economic recovery for Malaysia in six to twelve months.
In fact, this led to a 10-sen wager between Mahathir and myself in response to my prediction that general elections could be held this year.
I would prefer to lose the 10-sen wager for the government should be concentrating its energeis to fully restore confidence to effect an economic turnaround and recovery in the shortest possible time with the minimum of avoidable hardship, suffering and injustices to Malaysians.
Of course, it is in the hands of Mahathir as to whether he wins or loses the 10-sen wager with me, as he is the sole person to decide when to call the general elections and he would like to win the wager.
However, Mahathir might be prepared to lose the wager as he may be compelled to hold general elections this year in view of the worsening economic situation and deepening political problems in UMNO.
In fact, I would not be surprised if Mahathir dissolves Parliament for an August general elections or in October/November between the Commonwealth Games and the Asia-Pacific Economic Community (APEC) Leaders Summit in the third week of November.
Today, the Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange Composite Index (CI) fell by 10.63 points to 472.37 points while the Malaysian ringgit closed at 4.0100/020 against the US dollar from 3.9480/998 the previous day.
The KLSE CI yesterday fell to the lowest level in the nearly a year of economic crisis, as the lowest point previously registered by the KLSE CI was 477.57 points on January 12, and the worst is yet to come if the Japanese yen continues to weaken against the US dollar, and even worse, weakening the Chinese yuan. Should these economic scenarios develop, the KLSE CI might even crash through the 400-point barrier.
Although in January this year, Mahathir was talking about economic recovery in six to 12 months while the MCA President and Transport Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Ling Liong Sik was even more optimistic, talking about economic recovery in three months (which passed in April), most economists and financial analysts at the time were of the opinion that economic recovery would take two to three years.
Now, however, the economic prospects are bleaker, with most expecting economic recovery in four to five years. The first quarter has shown a negative growth of -1.8 per cent, which has come as a great shock as the government had never expected such bad figures. In fact, based on the latest gloomy figures, economists are forecasting a negative GDP growth for Malaysia for the whole year of 1998 exceeding -2 per cent, which is in sharp contrast to the governmentís forecast of a positive 2 to 3 per cent GDP growth for this year.
All eyes are now focussed on the UMNO General Assembly next week not only with regard to what new measures Mahathir is going to adopt to restore confidence and address the worst economic crisis in the nationís history - which had been a losing battle for the past eleven months - but also to throw light on the deepening problems inside UMNO.
This is why the Barisan Nasional parties are using their control and influence in the local mass media to try to distract attention from the national problems as well as their internal party problems, by giving unprecedented coverage to the DAP problems, presenting them in a most unfair and tendentious manner.
Utusan Malaysia, which very seldom give space to DAP, is giving very fulsome coverage about allegations of nepotism in DAP, when it has no word about the grave problem of KKN - corruption, cronyism and nepotism - in Malaysia which is now the focus of national and international concern.
I do not see Utusan Malaysia giving fair coverage by giving equally prominent space to the rebuttals which the DAP National Chairman, Dr. Chen Man Hin, DAP National Deputy Chairman, Karpal Singh and I had made about nepotism in DAP, which must be the most unique and unprecedented kind of nepotism in the world, as Lim Guan Eng is going to jail for 36 months for defending the honour, human rights and women rights of a 15-year-old underaged girl against the mighty and powerful, and not getting privatisation contracts, special bank loans or bail-outs using public funds running into hundreds of millions and even billions of ringgit.
It is clear from the mass media coverage of the DAP troubles in the past few days that the Barisan Nasional has a two-fold mass media agenda, namely;
The people have to be discerning as to what they read in the mass media, for it does not mean that anything said or printed in black-and-white in the mass media must be true and not lies and falsehoods.