(Kubang Pasu, Monday): Last night was one of the rare occasions when I watched the television news on RTM2. There was the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad talking about his plan to meet with PAS President Datuk Fadzil Noor at the latter’s hometown in Alor Malai, Kedah in the hope of seeing the unity talks between both parties materialise. He expressed his disappointment that his plan to meet Fadzil at the newly-built mosque in Alor Malai during the Hari Raya Aidiladha prayers has been dashed as Fadzil would be away in Mecca performing the Haj.
Anybody who saw the TV news would get the inescapable conclusion that Fadzil had deliberatedly avoided a meeting with Mahathir at Alor Malai during Hari Raya Aidiladha by suddenly deciding to rush off to Mecca - which I know for sure is untrue as I knew in early January about Fadzil’s plan to go for the Haj.
This was a clear example of media distortion by the TV news channels.
There was another item on RTM2’s 8 pm prime-time news last night - shamelessly equating the demonstrations by Barisan Alternative in Malaysia with Indonesian demonstrations depicting horrifying scenes of arson, bloodshed and carnage!
This is not a news item but unadulterated propaganda and poison which should have no place in a news programme, as it ignores the most fundamental differences between demonstrations in Malaysia and Indonesia, where the former were peaceful and had never been violent or unruly except under uncalled-for police provocations while the latter were always violence-prone because of the depths of poverty and destitution among the Indonesians.
This was a most unethical and irresponsible attempt on the part of the Barisan Nasional government to abuse its control of the news air channels to pollute the minds of Malaysians - which is a gross abuse of power and another example of how those in authority have lost their moral bearings, unable to distinguish between what is right and what is wrong!
For these reasons, I can fully understand why the PAS leaders have asked for the prerequisite that the government create a “more conducive” atmosphere for the proposed talks between PAS and UMNO - as it is clearly unconducive and unacceptable for any talks when one side continues to abuse its monopoly of government powers to use the radio and television to vilify and character-assassinate the Opposition or instigate the police to be trigger-happy to indiscriminately fire tear-gas and chemically-laced water at unarmed and peaceful crowds or launch mass arrests of ordinary men and women gathered to meet and listen to Opposition leaders.
Of course, UMNO can claim that it has no control over the RTM or the police, that there is a distinction between UMNO and the government, but it will be taking the Malaysian people for fools and simpletons who could buy such lame and insincere excuses.
This is why when PAS also asked as other prerequisites for the talks, the resolution of the Terengganu oil royalty issue, the restoration of the Harakah permit to be published twice a week instead of fortnightly and the withdrawal of UMNO’s attempt to ban the use of the word Islam in the PAS name, the claims of the UMNO leaders that they have no powers on anyone of these matters are simply specious and unacceptable.
Again, how can Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad claim that as UMNO President, he is not responsible for his actions as Prime Minister, whether with regard to the persecution of Anwar Ibrahim, Lim Guan Eng, Karpal Singh, Irene Fernandez, Ezam Mohamad; the erosion of public confidence in the independence, impartiality and integrity of the judiciary; economic mismanagement and gross abuses of public funds as in the crony mega bail-outs like the RM1.79 billion buyout of Tan Sri Tajudin Ramli's 29.09 per cent stake in MAS through Naluri, the RM6 billion bailouts for the two LRT companies, STAR and PUTRA and now the necessity to bailout the RM1.4 billion Time dotCom's IPO fiasco as a result of its 75 per cent undersubscription.
Last Friday, the Singapore Straits Times carried a report on how little faith Malaysians themselves have in institutions such as the judiciary when there is already pressing need to boost investor confidence in Malaysian institutions.
It said that a “recent comprehensive survey of attitudes of Malays, Chinese and Indians towards the judicial system produced a uniform response: only about one in five respondents had confidence in the judiciary”.
It said: “Most of the Malays polled said they had no confidence and harboured little hope of any improvement, while most of the Chinese felt the judiciary could be run better.
“These people are representative of the young Malaysian population and will monitor closely the workings of the court system under the new regime of Tan Sri Dzaiddin for any sign of change.”
Tan Sri Mohamed Dzaiddin Abdullah made a good start as the new Chief Justice of the Federal Court with his courageous admission in his first day in office that his first priority is to restore public and international confidence in the judiciary.
He acknowledged that foreign investors harbour reservations over the
integrity of the judicial system, which was why multinational corporations
and foreign investors are reluctant to invest because they perceive there
is no level playing
field, preferring arbitration outside Malaysia in the event of a dispute.
Malaysian confidence in the judiciary has reached a very parlous state when only one in five of the Malays, Chinese and Indians in the country or a paltry 20 per cent has confidence in the judiciary and it must stand as a terrible indictment of Mahathir’s 20-year governance and the biggest cause of Malay unity and national unity in the country.
The Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Dr. Rais Yatim, who is responsible for law and the administration of justice, should yable in Parliament next month the findings of this comprehensive survey which showed that only about one in five respondents had confidence in the judiciary for a special parliamentary debate.