(Petaling Jaya, Wednesday): MCA President and Transport Minister, Datuk Seri Ling Liong Sik said yesterday that all the leaders of the Barisan Nasional component parties have pledged their undivided support for the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad in leading the country out of its economic crisis in an unanimous decision at the Barisan Nasional supreme council meeting on Sunday.
Dr. Ling said Dr. Mahathir had led the country out of the last recession in 1987 and he was confident that the Prime Minister would be able to do the same this time.
The undivided support of the Barisan Nasional leaders in the past 12 months had not checked the worsening economic crisis, and an unanimous resolution by Barisan Nasional leaders of this nature on Sunday would not help one iota in resolving the worst economic crisis in the country.
If the economic crisis could be resolved by Barisan Nasional leaders passing unanimous resolutions of undivided support to the Prime Minister, then the Barisan Nasional Supreme Council should meet monthly and weekly to reaffirm such undivided support.
Malaysians cannot but be skeptical about the need for such expression of undivided support by Barisan Nasional leaders, some of whom have had created dubious distinction of out-Mahathiring Mahathir and who appear to be more concerned about protecting their own interests.
For instance, when Mahathir said in January that there would be economic recovery in six to 12 months, Liong Sik was even more optimistic and shortened the economic recovery to three months.
April has come and gone and there is not only no light at the end of the tunnel, the economic prospects are even bleaker than the most pessimistic forecasts - with the GDP shrinking by a negative 1.8 per cent in the first quarter of this year.
What is urgently needed to address the worsening economic crisis is not undivided support of Barisan Nasional leaders to Mahathir but full restoration of the people's confidence in the government as a result of wide-ranging political, economic and financial reforms.
What DAP leaders have been saying since last year, about the need to completely shake off the "denial syndrome", to take the people into full confidence about the the economic crisis by acting in a fully accountable and transparent manner, admit that the economic crisis had become so protracted and intractable largely because of our own policy and systemic weaknesses, and that the the worst of the economic crisis is not over, have now been proved right.
Yesterday, the executive director of the Malaysian Institute of Economic Research (MIER), Dr. Mohamed Ariff warned of more difficult times ahead for Malaysians as the worst part of the country's economic upheaval has yet to come.
He said in Kuching yesterday: "We really have not come to the bottom yet. I think we are only half-way down the crisis.
"From now to the end of the year, all indications are that the economic situation will get worse."
Ariff said the current economic downturn would be much more painful than the 1980s recession and that the recovery would take a longer time.
These are things which the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister and all Cabinet Ministers should be telling Malaysians since last year, instead of painting a false rosy picture and even talking about economic recovery in three months!
Even now, the government is sticking to its forecast of 2 to 3 per cent GDP growth for this year when economists are talking about a negative growth of -3.2 per cent!
Is Mahathir prepared to end the government shambles in addressing the economic crisis by admitting in his UMNO Presidential address this weekend that the country is facing a recession and that he is committed to a new programme of wide-ranging political, economic and financial reforms, crack down on corruption, cronynism and nepotism and that there would be no crack-down on human rights and civil liberties and that there would be no second Operation Lalang of mass detentions under the Internal Security Act?
There is no point of Mahathir, Liong Sik and certain local mass media in the country orchestrating a campaign against international publications such as the recent Time cover story and interview with Mahathir, to distract public attention from the real issues in the country.
Mahathir said that although his interview with Time lasted an hour, "only a small excerpt of my reply was printed and most of it sounded very negative".
He said: "When you try to compress my answers into one sentence, you invariably carry the wrong message. But I have no right to demand that I have my full answer printed in Time because of freedom of the Press."
If Mahathir thinks that his one-hour interview with Time has been unfairly presented, he has avenues of redress. I am sure Mahathir has separate recording of his interview with Time and the Prime Minister's Department can put the full transcript of his interview with Time on the Internet for national and international consumption.
Alternatively, Mahathir can ask Time magazine to put up the full transcript of the interview on the Time website on the Internet.
Mahathir is a fervent exponent of Information Technology and should be aware of these avenues. The question is why he is not making full use of IT?