Abdullahís "PM is fine" assurance is classic example of a denial which only  intensify rather than squash rumours and speculations

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya, Thursday): Deputy Prime Minister  Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said in Kota Kinabalu last night that Datuk Seri Dr  Mahathir Mohamad, who is now on holiday abroad, is fine.   He said the people should not listen to rumours being spread  concerning the Prime Minister's health.

While Abdullah meant well, his "PM is fine" assurance is a classic example of a denial which only  intensify rather than squash rumours and speculations.

This is because of two statements made by  Abdullah.  Firstly his statement that  "If anything happens to him, I will be the first person to be informed and so far there has not been anything" only raised cynical eyebrows as to whether he would be the first person to be informed of anything that happens to the Prime Minister.

Secondly, his admission that he had not spoken to Dr. Mahathir on the ground that it was not necessary because the Prime Minister was on holiday again confirmed what everybody suspected, that Abdullahís knowledge about Dr. Mahathirís actual condition is no better than that of any other ordinary Malaysian citizen!

 It is no use Abdullah attacking rumours that Dr Mahathir had fallen  off a horse in Argentina as repulsive and  those who indulged in it  had no love for the country.  The more pertinent question is why a  government which talks so much about information technology and information society is so ham-fisted as to be unable to quash a rumour that the Prime Minister had fallen off a horse that it has to be blown out of all proportion as the work of "enemies" of the nation?

The rumour that the Prime Minister had fallen off a horse could be easily quashed either with Dr. Mahathirís television appearance (which is now so easy in this era of  instantaneous communications) or a proper announcement by Abdullah that he had just spoken to Dr. Mahathir who was fine in health.

Abdullah should be aware that the unusual last-minute cancellation of Dr. Mahathirís one-week official visit to Switzerland, skipping the  annual World Economic Forum in Davos where he is scheduled to deliver a keynote address and participate in an inter-religious and inter-civilisational dialogue, could only feed rumours and speculations.

The government talks so much about smart schools, smart cards, smart hospitals, etc. but Abdullahís attempt yesterday to quash rumours about the Prime Minister was clearly  not a "smart" one - as by admitting that he had no first-hand information or contact with the Prime Minister, his "PM is fine" statement lacks credibility.  Furthermore, Abdullah was unable to throw light as to why  the Prime Minister had cancelled participation to  his favourite forum in Davos.

Abdullahís reference to the peaceful demonstrators on Tuesday on the resumption of the sodomy trial of former Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim as "unpatriotic people who have no love for the nation" is most regrettable and unworthy of a person in line to be the next Prime Minister.

The 11 people arrested on Tuesday and charged in the Kuala Lumpur magistrateís court  yesterday come from all racial groups - highlighting a most commendable development in recent times where Malaysians are now more mature and united as citizens in  coming together on common issues of justice, freedom, democracy and good governance as compared to the past when the people were more obsessed with primordial issues of race and religion.

These 11 people are also keeping alive the aspirations of Malaysians for greater democratic space, where the right of peaceful protest for a better Malaysian society is not regarded by the government as anti-national act but one which is fully inspired by the highest form of love and patriotism for the country.

Only those who suffer from grave insecurity complexes will equate  peaceful protests with chaos and riots.

Instead of making unwarranted attacks on peaceful protestors as disloyal or having no love for the nation, Abdullah should set the example of open and democratic leadership in the new millennium by ensuring the immediate and unconditional release of the eleven, as well as instructing the police to respect the right to peaceful assembly of Malaysians.


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman