(Petaling Jaya, Friday): The Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad yesterday slammed the Asiaweek news magazine for deliberately publishing a picture of him in its Jan 26 issue with an attempt to portray him as a foolish and tired-looking person when Asiaweek had persuaded him to come out from his Putrajaya office at the Prime Minister's Department to take nearly 200 photographs, stating that "To find a picture that makes you look as if you are an idiot, is deliberatly done".
Although the Asiaweek captioned Mahathir’s picture with the words "Is the prime minister being left behind by a new Malaysia that he helped build?" and depicted Mahathir as a person "slumped in his chair and appeared tired and worn down by the unprecedented criticism of his rule" in the preface to the magazine’s interview with Mahathir, Malaysians are more interested in what the Prime Minister said in the interview.
It is very significant that Mahathir did not complain about the question-and-answer interview carried by Asiaweek, which would indicate that Mahathir is happy about its accuracy but not the photograph chosen or the captions used.
It is rather disappointing that in his first public comment on the Asiaweek
interview, he did not take the opportunity clarify two impressions, firstly,
that he had not learnt the lessons as to why there had been a continued
erosion of political support for UMNO and Barisan Nasional since
the last general elections in November 1999, continuing to blame
Anwar Ibrahim for all his political problems and UMNO’s woes;
and secondly, his repetition of the baseless allegation that "Some
Chinese are extremists" because of their support for "meritocracy", clearly
referring to the Suqiu election appeals.
Mahathir’s Asiaweek interview has also highlighted the impotence of ACA, which should explain why it is so incompetent as unable to prosecute anyone for rampant money politics in UMNO when the Prime Minister had publicly admitted its seriousness - again in the Asiaweek interview - and wept many times over it in public.
The following extracts are from the transcript of the Asiaweek interview:
“Q. Aside from the Anwar factor, the opposition has capitalized on the perception that UMNO is elitist and moneyed.
“A. I have told UMNO you have to behave yourself. Over the years, because of the success of the country, these people have become materialistic. I admit that. It is a very tough battle to fight.
“Q.Are you winning?
“A. Some grassroots people say, well, we only get a few dollars. The people we elect make so much money for themselves — why do you grudge us these few dollars? If we don't take [the money] then somebody else will. How do you argue against that? But this mentality is wrong. I've got my frustrations with my own party. UMNO is weak because there is no dedication [like] before. The purpose of getting into UMNO is not to become ministers and make money. The purpose is to serve.”
Mahathir would not find much support or sympathy inside or outside UMNO for castigating the UMNO grassroots for being wrong, wayward and corrupt in having the mentality of insisting of getting their “few dollars” when the leaders “make so much money for themselves” or their belief in the vicious cycle and whole institution of corruption that “If you don’t take (the money) then somebody else will”.
It is perfectly natural for the UMNO grassroots to feel entitled to their “few dollars” when their leaders “make so much money for themselves” as the grassroots would be the best persons to know when their leaders suddenly strike rich and change their lifestyles as a result of their political positions.
If the leaders are corrupt, nobody has the moral right to ask the followers to be clean. Mahathir will only be right in demanding that the UMNO grassroots stick to the straight and narrow path of honesty and dedication if he is prepared to cleanse the whole Augean stables in UMNO and rid it of corruption and money politics, starting from the top downwards instead of bottom upwards!
When the former Bank Negara assistant governor Datuk Abdul Murad Khalid made a statutory declaration in October 1999 alleging that the former Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim had amassed a fortune of RM3 billion while in government through 20 "Master Accounts", ACA director-general, Datuk Ahmad Zaki Hussin swung into action and announced that the ACA had set up a special high-level team to investigate into Murad’s allegations against Anwar, claiming that almost every paragraph of Murad’s seven-page statutory declaration contained some information on corruption.
When the 1999 general elections were over, nothing more has been heard about this high-level ACA investigation.
Did Zaki and the ACA set up a special high-level investigation team into the rampant money politics in UMNO when the UMNO President had publicly admitted its seriousness and wept several times over it?
Zaki and ACA officials had said more than once that they would glean information about corruption from any source, whether from “surat layang” or from the Internet.
Since last week, a website has appeared on the Internet making serious allegations of corruption and abuses of power against the Sarawak Chief Minister, Tan Sri Taib Mahmud, and anyone visiting it would find it crammed with details and documentation.
Has the ACA set up a high-level investigation team to probe into all the allegations made on this website, which has attracted over 10,000 visitors, and is the Sarawak Chief Minister prepared to issue a comprehensive statement to clear his name with regard to all the allegations on this website before the holding of the Sarawak state general elections?