Mahathir must have found American Congressmen very  naïve and gullible to buy his pleas for “patience”and not to ask for “sudden …overnight change”  when defending draconian laws like ISA, Police Act and PPPA after having been Prime Minister in Malaysia  for 21 years

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya,  Friday)The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad must have found American Congressmen naïve and gullible as to buy his pleas for “patience” and not to ask for “sudden…overnight change” when defending draconian laws like the Internal Security Act, the Police Act and the Printing Presses and Publications Act after having been Prime Minister in Malaysia for 21 years!  

In his speech at Capitol Hill  to some 30 Congressmen from both the Republican and Democratic parties in Washington  to launch the US Congress’ Malaysia-American Friendship Caucus, Mahathir  said the West was “very impatient and wanted change overnight”.  He said that “sudden change, even if it is for the good, is disruptive” and for those who were not used to it, democracy could undermine the stability resulting in war.  

He stressed the need for “patience” and said: “It is well to remember that democracy is only a means and not an end in itself. It is the good that democracy brings that counts, not democracy per se.”  

This is typical Mahathirian perverted illogic.  How can Mahathir honestly and credibly expect experienced and  sophisticated American Congressmen to buy his pleas for “patience” and not to ask for  “sudden...overnight change” to justify the growing  arsenal of draconian and repressive laws in Malaysia when he had been the Prime Minister in the country for 21 years and not 21 months, unless Malaysian lobbyists have succeeded in assembling the most naïve and gullible congressmen to be found on  Capitol Hill in Washington to join the Caucus! 

Instead of lapping up Mahathir’s self-serving but meaningless pleas for “patience” and not to ask for  “sudden…overnight change”, the US Congressmen who supported the formation of the US Congress’ Malaysia-American Friendship Caucus should have sent a clear signal to Mahathir that in the best interests of Malaysia,  they  would expect him to address in his Caucus inauguration speech his 21-year record as Prime Minister on  democracy and human rights in Malaysia, why instead of progressive improvement in these two important fields there had instead been a relentless emasculation of the democratic process and serious deterioration of the condition of human rights in the country. 

Mahathir told the Congressmen that his government is  “unable to accept the absolute freedom that you believe in…One day perhaps we will be comfortable with your values, but for the moment we are not comfortable.”  This is another piece of Mahathirish perverted  illogic by equating calls for greater democracy and human rights as demands for “absolute freedom”, when  nobody in Malaysia is asking for “absolute freedom” and there is no such thing as “absolute freedom” even in the US and the West or there would just be anarchy! 

Mahathir claims that he inherited the draconian laws like the ISA when he became Prime Minister but what he did not say was that he had  refined and “perfected” all the repressive laws dating from the colonial era to make them   even more draconian and repressive than their colonial antecedents through multiple amendments by a mute and subservient Parliament  to turn horrible laws into monstrous ones - like the ISA, excluding judicial review of Ministerial abuses of power to use the detention-without-trial law to stifle legitimate and democratic dissent.  

In Blair House in Washington, Mahathir labelled the reformasi six who had just undergone an 11-day hunger strike to protest the anniversary of their ISA detention as “nonentities” and said: “If we wanted to paralyse the opposition, we would have arrested their leaders, not some of these people who are the minor lights in their own party…They say things that stir people up so we have to take action against them.” (The Washington Post 15.5.2002)  

This is the best example of the deplorably sad state of democracy and human rights in Malaysia, of the total misuse and abuse of the detention-without-trial ISA to stifle the legitimate and democratic opposition - where  fundamental liberties recognized by all civilized societies can be deprived indefinitely just because “they say things that stir people up” - which is the professional preoccupation of every American Congressman, Republic or Democratic.  By this logic, every American Congress would have to be locked up without trial under the ISA or such-like legislation.  

Mahathir refuses to recognise the democratic and fundamental right of politicians to “stir people up” against injustices, abuses of power and all forms of excesses  provided they  fall  within the ambits of the law and run the risk of prosecution and  public trial for any offences and transgressions of  the law.  

Without realising it, Mahathir had unconsciously given  the real reason for the ISA incarceration of the reformasi six, Mohamad Ezam Mohamad Nor, Hishamuddin Rais, Chua Tian Chang, Saari Sungib, Badrulamin Bahron and Lokman Noor Adam which was  not the formal reasons for their detention -  for being  part of a militant plot for the violent overthrow of the elected government of Malaysia, which the government  had not been able to furnish one iota of evidence after more than a year of ISA detention of  the six.  

DAP welcomes the formation of the US Congress’ Malaysia-American Friendship Caucus as Malaysians value their relationship with the United States, not only because of bilateral  educational and political but also strong economic ties, as  the United States is the largest single investor in Malaysia with  some US$6 billion of direct investment in Malaysia and the country’s largest customer, accounting for 20 per cent of all exports valued at US$22.3 billion last year as compared to US$9.4 billion Malaysian imports from the United States.  

However, the US Congress’ Malaysia-American Friendship Caucus should promote friendship between the US Congress and the Malaysian Parliament and people, and not just with Mahathir and the government - and for this reason, the US Congress Caucus should reach out to Malaysian Opposition parties, NGOs and the civil society to get a balanced and representative picture of Malaysia.  

The US Congress Caucus cannot be unaware that the  American media had been critical of Mahathir during the visit, with The New York Times even comparing him to Cuban dictator Fidel Castro when it used the headlineWhite House on Autocrats: Malaysian Si, Cuban No” to imply that the Malaysian and Cuban leaders were fellow dictators.  

The New York Times noted that President George W. Bush used his White House appearance with Mahathir to continue the “rehabilitation” of the Malaysian leader and also to castigate Castro as a dictator who “ought to have free elections”, “ought to have a free press” and “ought to free his prisoners” - and yet, he made no public comments on Malaysia's record on the same issues. 

In the circumstances, the Congress Malaysia-American Friendship Caucus should place on top of its agenda of friendship the promotion of democracy and human rights in Malaysia - not to plug for “absolute freedom” or “sudden …overnight change” but encourage  perceptible and  measurable  progress of democratisation and greater respect for human rights in Malaysia  from time to time rather than the reverse as a mark of the real “friendship” of the Caucus.



*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman