(Penang, Sunday): Around New Yearís Eve, the Second Finance Minister, Datuk Mustapha Mohamed said Malaysians could look forward to the last year of the 20th century with renewed confidence after 12 months of uncertain economic and political developments, as "political calm had returned".
Mustapha had, however, spoken too soon as yesterday, the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Mahathir Mohamad announced that he would be visiting the various states after the Hari Raya as "party members and the public seem to be confused with the political situation now".
The countryís twin political and economic crisis is creating a sea-change in political consciousness and expectations in Malaysian society, and the next general elections, the tenth in the nationís history, will be a political watershed if the stranglehold of dominant parliamentary majorities resulting in authoritarian democracy in Malaysia is broken with the denial of two-thirds majority to the Barisan Nasional, whether at national or state level.
With the deferment of the UMNO supreme council elections as far as December next year, UMNO party elections would be held after the national general elections in the next six to 12 months.
The deferment of UMNO party elections is an indication that Mahathir is not in full control of UMNO. It is clear that Mahathir would be leading the Barisan Nasional into the next hustings, but whether Mahathir would again stand for re-election as UMNO President would depend on a number of factors, one of which would be the Barisan Nasional performance in the next general elections.
Mahathir said yesterday that his new Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Badawi should normally, by tradition, succeed him as Prime Minister but he could not be sure as he already had three deputy prime ministers who are not succeeding him.
Whether Abdullah succeeds Mahathir as Prime Minister will depend on many factors, some of which are outside the Deputy Prime Ministerís control. For instance, if Barisan Nasional loses two-thirds parliamentary majority in the next general elections, it may result not only in the stepping down of Mahathir as Prime Minister, but also in Abdullah being successfully challenged in the elections for UMNO President.
Malaysia is now in an era of rapid political developments and changes and the general elections preparations seminar this morning should work out a strategy to ensure that the fundamental issues facing the people and country are not side-stepped or crowded out - namely justice, freedom, democracy and good governance for all Malaysians, regardless of race or religion.
The injustice suffered by DAP Deputy Secretary-General and MP for Kota Melaka, Lim Guan Eng, who is languishing in prison for courageously and diligently discharging his parliamentary duties defending the honour, human rights and womenís rights of an underaged 15-year-old girl is a glaring case of unacceptable injustice in Malaysia. Another example is the "black eye" and other injuries suffered by former Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim while under police custody.
For this reason, the DAP will be launching a nation-wide campaign entitled "Justice For All" to bring home to all Malaysians the important message why the time has come for everyone to stand up and be counted to ensure that Malaysia enter the new millennium with justice, freedom, democracy and good governance for all in Malaysia.