(Petaling Jaya, Wednesday): With the approach of the general election, the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, seems to be losing a proper sense of right and wrong, what should be said and what should not be said and in particular the leadership example which should be set by a person holding the highest political office in the land.
Two days ago, Mahathir showed total insensitivity of his responsibility in governing a multi-racial, multi-religious nation when he openly declared that there would be a May 13 and racial riots if the Barisan Nasional is not returned with a two-thirds parliamentary majority in the next election.
Yesterday, Mahathir accused the Opposition of posing a threat to democracy. He alleged: "Should the opposition be chosen, will they retain democracy? I don't think they will let the people have the right to pick their leaders."
Mahathirís claim that the Barisan Nasional "still adhered strongly to democracy and willingly returned the mandate to the people every five years" is meaningless if the ruling coalition is not prepared to conduct a "free, fair and clean" election and the Prime Minister is doing his utmost to fulfil his own forecast that the next election would be the "dirtiest" in history by resorting to the politics of fear, blackmail and intimidation.
In other countries, the Prime Minister and the government of the day would be assuring the citizenry that they could cast their votes freely without fear and that all actions had been taken by the police and security forces to ensure that there would be no trouble in a general election - but in Malaysia, we have the opposite with the Prime Minister leading the chorus that there would be a May 13 and racial riots if the ruling coalition is not returned with a two-thirds parliamentary majority.
Is Mahathir telling Malaysian voters that they can have democracy and cast their votes only if they vote and return the Barisan Nasional with a two-thirds majority, and any other result is unacceptable to the Barisan Nasional?
A simple calculation shows that even if the Opposition succeeds in denying the Barisan Nasional two-thirds parliamentary majority in the next general election with say a collective total of some 70 to 75 Opposition parliamentary seats, the Barisan Nasional would still have 118 to 123 seats out of a 193-strong Parliament - a majority of between 48 to 53 seats.
Is Mahathir telling Malaysians and the world that a 48-53 seat majority, though without a two-thirds majority, will render the Barisan Nasional administration weak and ungovernable?
If Mahathir is sincere and serious about the Barisan Nasionalís commitment to democracy, then he should stop threatening the Malaysian voters that there would be a May 13 and racial riots if the Barisan Nasional is not returned with a two-thirds parliamentary majority.
In fact, Mahathir should set the leadership example and pledge full co-operation with the Opposition parties to ensure that there would be peace and harmony in the next election and that there would be no possibility of a May 13 or racial riots, whatever the outcome of the polls.
The Opposition parties have shown from their past record that they had always accepted the electoral verdict of the people in the polls, whatever the outcome.
I challenge Mahathir to declare that the Barisan Nasional would peacefully and humbly accept the electoral verdict of the people in the next election, with or without two-thirds parliamentary majority, and that there would be no May 13 or racial riots as a result of the general election.
Mahathirís allegation that the Opposition poses a threat to democracy is baseless as well as mischievous.
He criticised the DAP and myself for not being democractic and accused me of ridiculing all court decisions involving the DAP, but did not say the courts were "unfair or cruel" when the government and Barisan Nasional leaders were convicted.
In the first place, let me state that the DAP had always been committed to democracy and history proves that the DAP is more democratic than UMNO. The DAP does not take disciplinary action without going through the due process, unlike UMNO as shown in the case of the sacking of Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim as Deputy UMNO President.
The DAP practises the full democratic process as provided in the party constitution, and party elections had always been held regularly, unlike in UMNO where party elections could be suspended and certain key posts like the President and Deputy President prohibited from being contested.
On the DAPís criticism on the independence of the judiciary, Mahathir said: "When Lim Guan Eng (Kota Melaka MP) was jailed, Kit Siang claimed the court was biased. But when the same court declared UMNO illegal Kit Siang said it was a fair decision". - The Star
For the record, I said nothing when the court declared UMNO illegal in 1998, as I was at that time incarcerated for the second time under the Internal Security Act.
However, Mahathir should know that his claim that the Barisan Nasional government respects the independence of the judiciary sounds hollow when public confidence in the independence of the judiciary is at an all-time low in the nationís history.
True, the Malaysian courts had declared UMNO illegal on 4th February 1988, but that was probably the last example of judicial independence in Malaysia where the ruling parties had a vested interest in high-profile political cases - for in less than three months, the country was plunged into the worst judiciary crisis in history with the sacking of the Lord President, Tun Salleh Abas and five Supreme Court judges.
Mahathir is wont to claim that under the Barisan Nasional rule, Ministers and Mentri Besars had been charged and convicted of corruption and even for murder to show that there is independence of the judiciary. I challenge Mahathir to give one such instance in his 18 years as Prime Minister where Ministers, Mentri Besars or Chief Ministers had been charged in court for corruption or any other crime!
Mahathir is not only unable to give one such instance, he has yet to explain why the decision of the Anti-Corruption Agency and the Attorney-Generalís Chambers that the Minister for International Trade and Industry, Datuk Paduka Rafidah Aziz should be prosecuted on five counts of corruption with regard to her Ministryís allotment of preferential shares to her son-in-law was overruled and sidelined!
*Lim Kit Siang - Malaysian Parliamentary Opposition Leader, Democratic
Action Party Secretary-General & Member
of Parliament for Tanjong