Jan 29, 08
Former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad today lashed the government as “weak” and said he feared that vote-buying would be deployed to stem its losses in upcoming general elections.
Mahathir, who stepped down in 2003 after two decades in power, echoed analysts’ views that the increasingly unpopulargovernment is headed for losses at the polls expected to be held in March.
He also criticised its decision to jail ethnic Indian protesters, saying the minority community had no way of airing its grievances, and that a wave of public protests was inspired by the government’s repeated errors.
In an interview with foreign newswires to mark the launch of a book on his correspondence with world leaders, Mahathir said the ruling Umno would still lead the Barisan Nasional coalition.
“Even if Umno lose 20, 30 of their candidates, the Barisan Nasional is going to win”, Mahathir said, but added that voters would be sending a message with what is expected to be a reduced majority.
“It will give a much truer picture of the support that the government gets, but I fear corruption of the voters,” he said.
“I hope that this kind of money politics – I know a lot of people are collecting a lot of money now – if they use money politics the result may not reflect the true feeling of the people.”
Use of ISA against Hindraf 5
Mahathir was critical of his successor Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s jailing of five ethnic Indian activists under a draconian internal security law that allows for indefinite detention without trial.
The leaders of the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) infuriated the government in November by leading 8,000 people onto the capital’s streets, claiming that ethnic Indians are marginalised in multicultural Malaysia.
“No, I don’t think they should have thrown the leaders (into detention), they should have met these people first and had proper discussion,” Mahathir said.
The 82-year-old said he did not accept the claim that Indians are marginalised, but that coalition member MIC was not representing them properly.
“Here you have only one (Indian) political party and nobody else is allowed to come in and that is what is making the Indians really unhappy,” he said.
The Hindraf rally was one of several streets demonstrations that have shaken the government in recent months, along with an election reform rally that drew more than 30,000 protesters.
“There are occasions when there is a need for protest, when (the people) see that the government is repeatedly doing the wrong thing or they see the government is being weak, then they resort to protest,” Mahathir said.
The one-time strongman of Malaysian politics said he expected his former deputy Anwar Ibrahim, who he sacked in 1998 when he was jailed on corruption and sodomy charges, to continue to be a “thorn” in the government’s side.
Anwar’s ban on seeking political office expires in April this year, but Mahathir was scathing of his prospects.
“There is no more political future for (Anwar),” he said. “If he thinks he is going to be the prime minister, he is daydreaming.”
Abdullah was Mahathir’s hand-picked successor when he stepped down in 2003, but after the new leader dumped several of his pet projects he began launching accusations of economic mismanagement, nepotism and corruption.
Dr M fears corruption in general election