Although Malaysians heave a nation-wide sigh of relief at the final result of the test giving the country a clean bill of health, grave harm has been done to Malaysia’s reputation, economy and interests by the to-and-fro Microsoft letter giving the country the image of a hub of “bio-terrorism” and it will be very difficult to undo even the greater part let alone the full damage caused by the anthrax scare.
Media reports that Malaysia had originated an anthrax-laced letter
sent back to the United States had made a deep and probably indelible
imprint on the world psyche that Malaysia is a centre for “bio-terrorism”
for four reasons:
Media reports of Malaysia originating an anthrax-laced letter to the United States last weekend was given world-wide round-the-clock coverage by the CNN, but no one has noticed the CNN reporting the final CDC test which cleared the country when it determined that the letter was free of anthrax.
On Tuesday, the US Attorney-General John Ashcroft announced that those who perpetrate anthrax or other terrorist scares will be prosecuted. He said such scares are unlawful, ``gross transgressions of the public trust” and “create illegitimate alarm in a time of legitimate concern''. Is CNN prepared to give round-the-clock coverage to the CDC finding that the notorious Microsoft letter is free of anthrax and clear Malaysia’s name?
In Connecticut, a state employee was prosecuted for an anthrax hoax and he could face a maximum of up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $US3 million - twice the loss incurred as a result of the scare resulting in the two-day evacuation of 800 agency employees.
The Finance Ministry should compute the losses suffered or likely to be suffered by the Malaysian economy as a result of the anthrax scare and the Attorney-General should consider instituting proceedings to seek compensation from the relevant bodies, including CNN, for such colossal losses.
The greatest challenge facing the 2002 Budget is to devise a strategy to wipe out Malaysia’s “bio-terrorist” image associating it with militant Islam, terrorism and anthrax which will drive away investors and tourists and undermine all economic recovery efforts.
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 - such as the Prime Minister’s declaration of Malaysia as an Islamic State and PAS’ announcement of jihad over US airstrikes in Afghanistan, reinforcing the mistaken notion that Malaysia is a militant Islamic hub in Southeast Asia.
This is another reason why an all-party roundtable conference would be useful to reach a national accord on the proper strategy to wipe out Malaysia’s “bioterrorist” image so that Malaysia can be attractive again to foreign investment and tourists.