Malaysian government and all quarters   should avoid causing self-inflicted wounds to the country when the economy is struggling to avoid a recession in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and US airstrikes in Afghanistan

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya, Thursday): At the end of last month, the  Prime Minister and Finance Minister, Datuk Seri Dr.  Mahathir Mohamad cut Malaysia's official 2001 growth forecast to 1% to 2% after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington and announced a RM4.3 billion economic stimulus package,  although it is still to be seen whether this second economic stimulus package could be more effective than the first RM3 billion economic stimulus package announced in March this year.

This is the third government forecast for economic growth for this year, from the first estimate of 5% to  6%  in last year’s budget presentation which was later revised downwards to 2% -3%.  When Mahathir presents the 2002 budget in Parliament next Friday, there could be another adjustment to a lower forecast, as private economists project that the Malaysian economy could contract by up to 1% this year in the aftermath of the Terror Tuesday of Sept. 11.

In the bleak economic times, the Malaysian government and people  should be straining their utmost to improve the economic conditions and investment climate in Malaysia to avoid a recession but we seem to be perversely doing the opposite by causing self-inflicted wounds further undermining foreign confidence in the country, whether investment or tourism.

The New Zealand government, for instance, has just included Malaysia among the countries it is advising its nationals against travelling to - other countries include Afghanistan, Iraq, India (Jammu and Kashmir), Isarel and the Palestinian Authority (West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem), Indonesia (Aceh and West Timor),  Philippines (Sulu Archipelago, and southern and western Mindanao),  Sri Lanka (north and east), Somalia, Uganda, Tajikistan, Yemen.

The New York Times report yesterday quoting United States officials that terrorists tied to Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda  networks based in the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia were among the likely targets of future US covert and overt actions would have the effect of driving foreign investors and tourists away from the country.

Quoting  an United States official as saying that there  has been a concerted effort by Osama and his organisation to expand their activities in East Asia, not only in the Philippines, but also in Malaysia and Indonesia, the American daily said that the campaign against Osama's al-Qaeda network would probably take years.

Recently, Malaysia had already received adverse international media attention when the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation said that it had a videotape showing a meeting of two alleged al-Qaeda terrorists in Kuala Lumpur last October although Mahathir denied that Malaysia had become a hub for terrorism in the region.

In conducting its investigations after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the FBI said that Khalid Al-Midhar, one the suspected hijackers involved in crashing a hijacked passenger plane into the Pentagon, was seen on a surveillance tape meeting with a man whom American officials suspect played a hand in last year's attack on the USS Cole warship in the Yemeni port of Aden.

These were events probably outside the control of Malaysians, but there had been many self-inflicted wounds which could only add to the gloom of  the prospects of the Malaysian economy by turning away foreign investors and tourists from the country, two of which are:

The Malaysian government and all quarters in the country should avoid causing self-inflicted wounds to the country when the economy is struggling to avoid a recession in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and US airstrikes in Afghanistan - apart from ensuring the continued unity, solidarity and cohesion of Malaysians of diverse races, languages, cultures and religions.


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman