(Petaling Jaya, Saturday): The statement by the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad in Khartoum yesterday is most disturbing as it commits the Malaysian Government against political and economic reforms and for an end to collusion, corruption and nepotism in Indonesia.
Mahathir said that there were attempts to topple President Suharto by outsiders just as for Malaysia, "there are attempts to topple me by outsiders".
This is a most unfortunate statement as it creates the impression that there had been an international conspiracy to topple South-east Asian governments which had earlier targetted Mahathir and that this international conspiracy has now zeroed in on Suharto. In using the present tense about attempts by outsiders to topple him, Mahathir also suggests that there is presently an active international conspiracy to unseat him as Prime Minister.
This is of course news to Malaysians. Just as Mahathir has still to produce proof that there had been an earlier international conspiracy to topple him, which is still being actively pursued, he has to produce evidence of such an international conspiracy to topple Suharto.
What is most unfortunate about Mahathir’s statement is that the Malaysian government is seen internationally as the only country which is giving the greatest support to Suharto to disregard demands for political and economic changes and for an end to collusion, corruption and nepotism in Indonesia.
Why does Mahathir want to be the greatest defender of Suharto in his regime of collusion, corruption and nepotism?
Mahathir said Suharto was not the cause of Indonesia’s economic decline, the lowest in 30 years being experienced now as Indonesia had actually become a very advanced developing country under Suharto.
He said that during President Sukarno’s rule previously, Malaysians always heard of how very poor Indonesians were, that there was not enough food and there were some reported to have eaten rats.
He said Indonesia, under Suharto, achieved so much progress and prosperity but what happened now was actually the result of the economic crisis, and just like in Malaysia,was due to the depreciation of the Indonesian currency caused by foreign currency speculators.
Suharto has been described as the father of Indonesia’s "economic miracle" for the three decades of growth that brought the nation out of abject poverty. Now, however, he is increasingly seen as the source of Indonesia’s current troubles and the last straw that broke the camel’s back leading to widespread unrest is the national outrage felt by Indonesians that the Suharto regime could pump US$12 billion into insolvent banks owned by the well-connected rich while it cut US$2 billion in fuel subsidies, hitting the poor hardest when they are already down.
In defending Suharto in resisting demands for political and economic reforms and an end to collusion, corruption and nepotism, is Mahathir also defending his government’s refusal to introduce wide-ranging political, economic and financial reforms which is an important reason for the failure to restore confidence although Malaysia is in the eleventh month of the worst economic crisis in the nation’s history?
Mahathir said in Khartoum that Malaysia support Indonesia’s efforts for its economic recovery in accordance with the requirements of the International Monetary Fund.
This statement raises two questions. As Mahathir had been strongly critical of IMF’s rescue packages as inimical to the interest of the crisis-plagued developed countries at the expense of the international bankers, why has he tied Malaysia’s support for Indonesia’s economic recovery efforts to the IMF’s requirements for Indonesia?
Yesterday, Suharto rescinded the crippling fuel and electricity prices which had triggered the Indonesian unrest, in clear violation of IMF’s requirements for Indonesia and what Mahathir said about the condition of Malaysia’s help to Indonesia. Does this mean that the Malaysian government would now review whether to proceed with the US$1 billion or RM3.76 billion loan to Indonesia, and to use the money for small and medium industries to save them from bankruptcy? Charity, after all, must begin at home.