Parliament may be dissolved before it reconvenes on Oct. 18, which would put the polling  around early November

- DAP "Welcome Guan Eng back with honour" ceramah
Lim Kit Siang

(Port Klang, Saturday): In his interview with Asian Wall Street Journal  in New York on Monday, the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad painted a rosy picture of the Malaysian economy, claiming that it could soar by 5% or more next year and speed up to a 7% to 8% growth in subsequent years.

He said that he was in "no rush" to call national elections, and added:  "We can win now, but we want a two-thirds majority in Parliament. That means we’d have a strong government."

Another reason Mahathir gave for being  in "no rush" to call general election is Anwar’s ongoing  sodomy trial. He told the Asian Wall Street Journal that because the courts have limited what he could say about Anwar while the trial was underway, and because that restriction might cost him votes, he did not expect to call a general election until after the case was resolved.

It is not only the Opposition leaders who do not believe that Mahathir would hold off general election until next year, even Barisan Nasional leaders do not believe it.  In fact, the UMNO’s new saviour for Kelantan, Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, said recently that he expected  elections to be held in November.

Tengku Razaleigh said by then, the monsoon season would not  have begun. He ruled out December because of the fasting month.

Although Parliament is scheduled to reconvene on Oct. 18 for the budget meeting, with the 2,000 Budget to be presented to Parliament on Oct. 29, I think there is very strong possibility that Parliament would be dissolved before it reconvenes, which would put the polling around early November.

There is a lot of speculation that Mahathir would dissolve Parliament after the presentation of the 2,000 Budget on the ground that the Barisan Nasional would go to  the polls  campaigning on  the many "goodies" announced in the new budget to win votes.

I am not very convinced by this line of argument. I am more inclined to believe that Parliament would be dissolved before it actually reconvenes on Oct. 18, rather than the dissolution of Parliament after the presentation of the 2,000 Budget on Oct. 29, for two reasons:

Firstly, the  Barisan Nasional government does not have to wait until the 2,000 Budget on Oct. 29 to promise "goodies", for what could be announced in the new budget could also be announced either in the Barisan Nasional election manifesto or in separate election promises made by the Prime Minister or other top Barisan Nasional leaders during the election campaign.

The second reason why I think unlikely  the dissolution of Parliament after it has reconvened is more linked to Mahathir’s sense of pride, dignity and honour.  There is nothing in law and in the constitution to prevent the dissolution of Parliament in mid-session after it has been convened for two weeks and the presentation of the 2000 Budget on Oct. 29, 1999.

Such an act however would be a blot and a shame in the 18-year premiership of Mahathir because it would be the act of a very desperate Prime Minister, who is prepared to throw his pride,  dignity and honour to the winds in order to get the best possible timing for general election, heedless of public scorn and  blatant waste of public funds.

This is because the parliamentary business transacted in the two weeks before dissolution would all lapse, having all to be re-debated and re-adopted in the new Parliament, and the expenditures incurred by Members of Parliament in these two weeks would be a colossal waste of public funds. Dissolution of Parliament during the midst of a Parliamentary meeting only take place when there is a constitutional crisis, as in the sudden loss of a wafer-thin majority for the government or the ruling party being voted out of office as losing a no-confidence motion.

But this will not be  the case in Malaysia, for Mahathir not only has  two-thirds but in fact five-fifth parliamentary majority, and whatever the outcome in the next election, his present parliamentary strength is rock-solid and  all-powerful!

Of course, if Mahathir has  no confidence whatsoever of retaining parliamentary two-thirds majority for the Barisan Nasional in the next election, and is mortally afraid of the  new electoral list  which would come into effect next January, bringing into play the  650,000 new young voters who would begin to exercise their vote in January, then Mahathir might be desperate enough to  forget about his sense of pride, dignity and honour and  dissolve Parliament after the 2000 Budget had been presented on Oct. 29.

Whether  Mahathir plans to dissolve Parliament before it reconvenes on Oct. 18, or in November, is Mahathir sending a message to the High Court judge, Datuk Arifin Jaka, in his Asian Wall Street Journal interview from New York that he wants Anwar’s sodomy trial completed,  judgment delivered and sentence passed so that in the general election, he would be released from the court ban limiting him to what he could say about Anwar?


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