I am prepared to accept a wager with Mahathir on no general elections this year

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang  

(Penang, Sunday): The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad said yesterday that there would be no general election in the next six months in response to my prediction in January that general elections could be held as early as in six months’ time.

I first raised the possibility of general elections being held in the next six to 12 months in my speech in Penang on 16th January 1998 on the economic crisis, where I referred to Mahathir’s interview on TV3’s Malaysia Hari Ini the previous Friday (January 9, 1998).

In the interview, Mahathir expressed confidence that there would be economic recovery in six months to a year, and this theme of a six-month economic recovery was immediately taken up like a chorus by other Cabinet Ministers, with the Transport Minister and MCA President, Datuk Dr. Ling Liong Sik being the most enthusiastic or reckless by predicting an economic recovery in three months (which is now left with one month)!

I expressed my bafflement why Mahathir had suddenly come out with the talk of an economic recovery between six months to a year when the question of economic recovery was never adverted to at all by the Prime Minister in the previous six months of the economic crisis and at a time when the stockmarket and the Malaysian currency were falling through new psychological levels. On the day of his TV3 MHI interview, the KLSE Composite Index crashed through the 500-point barrier to close at 491.60 points, which nosed-dived to 477.57 points the following Monday. The Malaysian ringgit also fell to a low of 4.62 against the US dollar the same day.

This is why I had said at the Penang ceramah on January 16:

Three days later, on January 19, in a media statement, I suggested that the Prime Minister make a categorical announcement that there would be no possibility of general elections being held in the next six to twelve months to put to rest the subject of snap general elections this year.

The Prime Minister has taken two months to respond to my suggestion that he make a categorical statement to put to rest the issue of snap general elections in six to twelve months, but only partially.

In saying that there would be no general elections in the next six months, Mahathir has still kept open the possibility of general elections being called in the last quarter of this year.

Mahathir said yesterday that he is "not the type who will take a wager on this matter but if Kit Siang wants to bet 10 sen, I will put mine in". I am also not the type who goes round taking wagers, but I am prepared to reciprocate this departure from our usual conduct, and if Mahathir is prepared to bet 10 sen that there will be no general elections within this year, the wager is on.

All along, I have been consistent in my view that all national energies and resources should be focussed on economic turnaround and recovery, that the greatest challenge facing the country which should be the sole preoccupation of all Malaysians is the economic crisis and not the next general elections.

This is why although some Barisan Nasional parties in some states have started to develop general elections fever, the DAP has not activated its general elections machinery, because we want to keep the people focussed on the worst economic crisis facing the country rather than on the next general elections.

If Mahathir is prepared to accept the wager that there would be no general elections this year, it would go a long way to refocus some of the energies which some Barisan Nasional parties and leaders are already concentrating on general elections preparations to the detriment of addressing the national economic crisis.


*Lim Kit Siang - Malaysian Parliamentary Opposition Leader, Democratic Action Party Secretary-General & Member of Parliament for Tanjong