Although Mahathir, in his capacity as UMNO President, launched UMNOís anti-defamation operation purportedly to counter the oppositionís "lies and allegations against UMNO", it was in actual fact to start a war of lies in the run-up to the 10th general election.
This is most unfortunate, for instead of starting a war of lies, Mahathir should have called for an end to lies to make the next general election the "cleanest" in the nationís history.
An all-party conference should have been convened to work out the mechanism to monitor and check lies and falsehoods, and expose political parties which are not prepared to contribute to the effort to make the next general election the "cleanest" in the nationís history.
An independent and credible Election Commission fully mindful of its constitutional mandate to conduct free and fair elections would have convened such an all-party conference, especially after the Prime Minister had warned that the next polls would be the "dirtiest" in the nationís history. However, the Election Commission dared not take this initiative as there are no signs that the Prime Minister and the Barisan Nasional are prepared to co-operate and play their part to uphold free, fair and clean electioneering.
I find it most deplorable that the Prime Minister has degenerated to the level of calling leaders from the Barisan Alternative as "liars" - marking another dangerous level of degeneration of politicking to qualify the next general election as the "dirtiest" in the nationís history.
I hope that the next general election will not degenerate to a level where leaders of Barisan Nasional and Barisan Alternative would be trading epithets and name-calling, whether as a liar, hypocrite, manipulator, etc, instead of competing for voter support through a contest of ideas, programmes, policies and vision.
I find Mahathirís claim that he is a victim of labelling by the Opposition most unbelievable, when all these years, it has been the Barisan Nasional government with its absolute control of the mass media, both printed and electronic, which had been doing the labelling of Opposition parties - as labelling the DAP as chauvinistic, anti-national and unpatriotic which was very effective in projecting a negative image of the party!
Mahathir claimed that the DAP had labelled him as a dictator and "when this had been ingrained in the hearts and minds of the people, it was difficult to explain to them the truth".
Mahathir seems to admit that he is generally regarded by the people as a "dictator", but DAP cannot claim credit as this is not the DAPís handiwork, although we have accused him of being undemocratic and high-handed, evident from the arbitrary use of repressive laws against the opposition and dissent, whether the Internal Security Act, the Printing Presses and Publications Act, the Sedition Act, the Police Act or his subordination and subversion of the institutions of state, whether the Judiciary, Parliament, the Attorney-Generalís Chambers, the Police, the Election Commission, the Auditor Generalís Office, the Bank Negara or the mass media.
At least and at last, it seems to have dawned on Mahathir that after his 18 years as Prime Minister, the government is faced with an unprecedented multiple crisis of confidence and that its credibility gap is at an all-time low.
Unfortunately, instead of understanding the deep-seated causes of such a multiple crisis of confidence, Mahathir has chosen to look for scapegoats.
Mahathir said there were already signs that the masses were taken in by "lies and misinformation" spread by the opposition and former Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, and UMNO now found it difficult to explain the truth to the people.
In justifying the launching of the UMNO anti-defamation operation, Mahathir said: "If we don't act, the people may make an unwise decision and we may feel the effects in the coming general election."
He said the fact was that today UMNO was facing attacks against the party "based on lies and misinformation to the point that all good done by the party and the government for the nation, race and religion had been cast aside". Instead, some people focused on accusations that UMNO and its leaders were very oppressive and had victimised its own race and religion.
He said: "This is the allegation hurled against us and I found that many of us have not be successful in countering such allegations and because of that they (the people) would reject all our explanation just by saying that we are on the side of the wrongdoers and we are oppressive."
For the good name of the country as well as in the interest of the healthy development of democracy in Malaysia, I would call on Mahathir to cease and desist from launching a war of lies through the printed and electronic media, and instead, to act with statesmanship by responding to the DAP proposal for the drawing up of an all-party consensus to make the next general election the "cleanest" rather than the "dirtiest" in the nationís history.
Political parties should not compete to tell lies and falsehoods, but compete to refrain from telling lies and falsehoods.
A Clean, Ethical and Fair Election Commission, headed by a credible and reputable Malaysian like former Deputy Prime Minister, Tan Sri Musa Hitam, should be the mechanism to monitor and oversee the implementation of this All-Party Consensus for a free, fair and clean general election and an end to - or at least to minimise - lies and falsehoods during the general election campaign.