Abdullah should give special meaning to the 2003 World Press Freedom Day on Saturday by declaring his commitment to a free and independent press and announce that Home Ministry would not adopt any option of punitive or retaliatory action against The Economist
by Lim Kit Siang
(Penang, Thursday): Acting Prime Minister and Home Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi should give special meaning to the 2003 World Press Freedom Day on Saturday by declaring his personal commitment and the government he would lead in October to a free and independent press.
He should seal this commitment with the announcement that the Home Ministry would not adopt any option of punitive or retaliatory action against The Economist for publishing a critical, and even “belittling” in the views of certain UMNO Ministers and leaders, special survey on Malaysia some four weeks ago.
Abdullah should ensure that the whole furore over The Economist is resolved by the World Press Freedom Day on Saturday and that it is not left as one of the outstanding issues which has to go on to the plate for the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad to handle on his return from his two-month leave as Prime Minister on Monday .
If the UMNO leadership is strongly of the view that The Economist special survey on Malaysia presents an inaccurate and unfair picture of Mahathir’s leadership for over two decades, UMNO should come out with a special publication rebutting the articles in the London-based weekly.
This is because the majority of Malaysians, including UMNO members who have no political axes to grind, do not see The Economist articles as so heinous as to justify the ultimate state sanction of a ban on the publication – whatever one’s views of its contents.
Abdullah’s first major policy speech when he became Acting Prime Minister
in early March was his brilliant diagnosis of the Ugly Malaysian, the
“First World Infrastructure, Third World Mentality” Malaysian malaise and
“the danger of possessing the hardware but little software”, which will
obstruct the achievement of the Vision 2020 objective of a fully developed
* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman