Mahathir’s visit to Kampung Medan is the latest in a growing list of the Barisan Nasional government’s “too little, too late” response to the teeming and acute national woes in the country which does not augur well for Malaysia.
I find it very sad that the Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi only visited the troubled settlements at Jalan Klang Lama after I had issued a statement on March 10, 2001 urging him to “urgently visit, preferably by tonight, the still very volatile and explosive clash scenes off Jalan Klang Lama in Petaling Jaya to restore calm, peace and security for everyone”. Abdullah made his first visit the following evening.
I had told Abdullah “to go personally to the clash scenes to end the ongoing clashes in the troubled housing settlements despite the heavy police presence in the area” and “to lead a Cabinet task force to Kampung Lindungan, Taman Lindungan Jaya, Kampong Gandhi, Kampung Datuk Harun and the other troubled housing settlements to end the incidents and clashes, set up goodwill committees and actively restore inter-racial peace and understanding - which cannot be achieved by mere police presence”.
A team of Cabinet Ministers made a highly-publicised visit to the troubled areas several days later but which had not been followed up by more visits of teams of Cabinet Ministers!
My greatest disappointment with the Prime Minister is that he had not visited the troubled settlements at the first available opportunity, taking three long weeks to make his first visit - despite the fact that on March 11, 2001, I issued two statements on the same day urging him to personally visit Taman Medan and the surrounding squatter colonies to show the highest government concern over the worst ethnic clashes in the country for the past 32 years.
In the last three weeks, I had repeatedly urged the Prime Minister to visit Jalan Klang Lama squatter areas, the last statement a week ago on March 22, 2001 calling on Mahathir to make his visit to “spur urgent high-powered government action to adopt a holistic approach to restore communal peace, harmony and goodwill” after renewed incidents of sporadic attacks.
There were three other disgraceful episodes in connection with the government’s
handling of the worst clashes in the country in 32 years:
Another reason why Mahathir’s “most-belated” visit to Kampung Medan was a “surprise visit” was his use of the occasion to continue his partisan, truculent and divisive attacks on the Opposition.
Can Mahathir explain why he visited the scene of the worst ethnic clashes in 32 years to warn that “some groups believed that by staging riots daily, the country would be destabilised and subsequently the government of the day could be toppled” and that “once a government is toppled through riots, the one replacing it will also suffer the same fate'' when the government had openly admitted that the clashes were not political or “sparked by racial sentiments but due to social factors”?
Or was his real agenda in visiting Kampung Medan to use a very sensitive occasion to talke about how the governments of two of Malaysia's neighbours were “toppled through riots” and that “certain groups in the country thought they could do the same in Malaysia” ?
The focus and thrust of Mahathir’s belated visit to Kampung Medan should have been to see for himself the depressed socio-economic conditions in the areas concerned and to assure the troubled settlements of a RM1 billion Masterplan in the Eighth Malaysia Plan to transform not only the squatter colonies in Jalan Klang Lama but similar urban ghettos in other parts of the country into modern urban townships with the most basic modern amenities and facilities rather playing partisan politics.
It is very sad that in calling on the people not to be influenced by the Opposition's “malicious, slanderous and destructive campaigns”, Mahathir was himself indulging in these very campaigns.
It is no wonder that the foreign media - which Mahathir has elevated to “primary enemy status” - are asking why Mahathir is acting as if under siege when he has a two-thirds parliamentary majority, dismisses the Opposition as ineffective and that DAP is “finished”, and his UMNO presidency is secure and unchallenged?
The anwer is quite simple. Mahathir faces not a people's uprising, threatening violence and chaos to overthrow the elected government but a political crisis of the first magnitude because he has become the country’s most unpopular Prime Minister in the nation’s history and UMNO’s most unpopular party President in UMNO history.
In the circumstances, the reported resignation of the UMNO State Assemblyman for Beserah in Pahang, Datuk Fauzi Abdul Rahman after lodging a police report against Tan Sri Khalil Yaakob has not really come as a surprise - as the people have expected the rot in UMNO and Barisan Nasional to continue.
Malaysiakini yesterday reported that Fauzi’s police report accused Khalil of abuse of power during his tenure as Pahang Mentri Besar by giving out logging concessions without following regulations as laid out by the National Forestry Policy. Khalil had agreed when he was Mentri Besar that Pahang could, according to a yearly quota, only log approximately 28,000 acres of land but he flouted this quota.
Is Mahathir prepared to ask Khalil to resign as Information Minister and UMNO Secretary-General while full investigations into the police report against him are carried out and until he is cleared of any abuse of power as Pahang Mentri Besar?
Nobody expects Mahathir to require Khalil to submit his resignations, which can only plunge his ranking as the most unpopular Prime Minister and UMNO President down a few more notches, placing him under a greater siege and forcing him to make even more irrational and destructive attacks against Opposition leaders - when in fact he has become his own biggest enemy!