Immediate test of Khalilís "Fast Reply" Pledge: What is the real reason for Mahathirís cancellation of the World Economic Forum in Davos

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya, Saturday): The Information Minister, Tan Sri Khalil Yaakobís pledge yesterday to give fast  reply to "lies and allegations" against government leaders is now put to immediate test - what is the real reason for the cancellation of the Davos date of the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad for the World Economic Forum (WEF)  on January 27, 2000.

In London, Mahathir said that he was not going to Davos because he wanted to go home early, and not because of financier George Soros and he went into a tirade against Soros,  calling him a "nonentity whom no one listens to anymore and whose book is drivel".

This was because the Singapore Straits Times (STS) had earlier reported that Mahathir had decided to  skip the WEF in Davos because he was unwilling to sit in the same panel with former Israeli Prime  Minister Shimon Peres and financier George Soros.

STS reported that "There was also a feeling that the organisers were being  mischievous by pairing him with the financier, knowing that  both have been trading barbs in public since the currency  crisis hit Asia in 1997".
On Shimon Peres, STS reported "that  Dr Mahathir also feels that  sitting at the same table with Mr Peres could bring some  political problems in Kuala Lumpur" particularly after the earlier episode of the  Malaysian Foreign  Minister Datuk Syed Hamid Albar meeting  his Israeli counterpart during a recent visit to New York.
However, the International Herald Tribune (28.1.2000) reported differently, quoting a  WEF spokesman at Davos as saying that Mahathir  had cited "problems at home".

Khalil should inform Malaysians of the following:

Firstly, is it true that Mahathir had been scheduled to sit in  the same panel with former Israeli Prime  Minister Shimon Peres and financier George Soros in Davos, which is quite unbelievable as Mahathir would have to give earlier consent before agreeing to any programming in Davos.

Secondly, what is the real reason for Mahathir wanting to come home early - is it "problems at home" as he had told WEF, and if so, what are they.

When Mahathir said he wanted to "go home early", it meant that he would be back on February 1 instead of the February 3.  The only significance between the two-day difference is that he would be chairing the February 2 weekly Cabinet meeting.  Has Mahathir something in mind for the February 2 Cabinet meeting he is rushing back to chair after missing two Cabinet meetings on January 19 and 26, 2000.

In this connection, Khalil should explain why the Cabinet took a holiday and did not have its weekly Wednesday meeting on January 12 after Mahathir departed overseas from KL in the early hours of that morning - although there were many urgent national problems awaiting to be addressed?

Are these "problems at home" related to unhappiness at the manner in which the Cabinet had  mishandled  some of them - as for instance in the farce over the Bahasa Baku decision - or increasingly restive problems in UMNO at the highly undemocratic Stalinisation of the party, as in the UMNO Supreme Councilís  "no contest" decision for the two top party posts.

Is Mahathirís earlier return by two days to give him adequate time to prepare for the next UMNO supreme council meeting on February 4, 2000?

Be that as it may, Mahathir should explain why he did not send a representative instead to the WEF since he had earlier accepted its invitation and  whether he is now turning his back away from the annual WEF  meeting  Davos, billed as the world's top networking and brainstorming session and would be boycotting future annual WEF meetings?

U.S. President Bill Clinton will be one of the 33 national leaders joining more than 2,000 movers and shakers in the posh ski resort where the technological revolution and globalisation will be high on the agenda of the January 27-February 1 forum.

The  Davos forum is the first major international gathering since the World Trade Organisation collapsed as a result of NGO demonstrations in  Seattle in early December last year.

Besides weighty discussions on the geopolitical order after the Kosovo and East Timor crises, participants will also have a chance to ponder more esoteric issues such as what has become of the human soul and what is the meaning of time.


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman