Can Mahathir stress to Bush next week that America’s war on terrorism should not become a war against democracy and human rights?

Media Statement 
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya,  Thursday):   The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad has said that ties between Malaysia and the United States have improved because of the willingness of its present administration to listen to the views of others and that Malaysia could communicate better with the present government unlike the last one under Bill Clinton. 

Mahathir has indicated that he would be telling Bush that unless the root causes of terrorism are removed, there would be more terrorism - and in fact, there are more people inclined towards terrorism today than before Sept. 11. He would also be telling the American President about Israeli arrogance and  that the Israelis are  taking advantage of the fight against terrorism to persecute the Palestinians. 

DAP fully supports Mahathir in frank one-to-one talk with Bush to try to convince the American President that the war against terrorism cannot be won without resolving the root causes of terrorism, that terrorists are not born but made by  political and socio-economic repression and injustices.

But can Mahathir convey and  stress to Bush when meeting him at the White House  next week that America’s war on terrorism should not become a war against democracy and human rights worldwide and to express international concern that America’s democratisation agenda in its foreign policy  has become a casualty and got  blown up with the World Trade Centre in the September 11 terrorist attacks? 

Mahathir may not be upset at all by  the abandonment or downgrading of the democratisation agenda in the United States foreign policy, but is he prepared as Prime Minister of Malaysia to convey to the US President these strong concerns of the  vocal and articulate sections of the Malaysian civil society? 

The two recent international Islamic conferences held in Kuala Lumpur, the Islamic Foreign Ministers Conference on Terrorism and the Islamic Wakaf Ministers’ Conference, were regarded as endorsement of the legitimacy of Mahathir and the Malaysian government in the Islamic world. 

Will Mahathir’s visit with Bush at the White House next week be regarded by the Malaysian government as American endorsement of the human rights violations in Malaysia, which had become more blatant and arrogant particularly after the September 11 terrorist attacks - proof that the Malaysian government is not averse to taking advantage of the 911 attacks to intensify its suppression of  democracy and human rights at home. 

This is  a matter of grave concern to thinking Malaysians  as the American administration, which until the September 11 attacks had taken a high profile and more activist  posture on human rights questions in its foreign policy agenda, seems to have adopted a new and  conscious policy to shy  away from human rights issues even to the extent of being prepared to prop up autocratic and authoritarian regimes in  the war against terrorism - reminiscent of US support for repressive military regimes and dictatorships in the Cold War conflict with communism.  

DAP urges  Mahathir to seriously consider the  call for the  release the six reformasi activists, Mohamad Ezam Mohamad Nor, Hishamuddin Rais, Chua Tian Chang, Saari Sungib, Badrulamin Bahron and Lokman Noor Adam, detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA) for more than a year, before his departure for the  United States to meet with President Bush to make  two important  points:


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman