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A Kadir Jasin
I think we can all agree unreservedly with Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar that the booklet to explain issues raised by the former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad must be released as soon as possible to prevent further confusion.
But I disagree with him that the debate on issues raised by Dr Mahathir should be cut short. In line with the current administration’s commitment to transparency, accountability and openness, the people must be allowed to debate these and other issues for as long as they want.
It may even be good as it reminds us of things and broaden our knowledge of issues. In this way we may be able to avert the “mudah lupa” syndrome.
Syed Hamid, was quoted by the New Straits Times as saying that the Cabinet had also agreed that the booklet would contain a list of documents that had been de-classified.
He added that the Cabinet had discussed at great length the issues raised by Dr Mahathir and the important facts that must be presented in the booklet.
"The Government will explain everything that has been debated or argued so far. The facts that will be presented must prevent confusion, misunderstanding and prolonged debate. That is what the Cabinet and the rakyat want," he said.
He said it was important that answers to Dr Mahathir’s questions were clear and accurate so as not to jeopardise bilateral ties between Malaysia and Singapore. "Whatever Tun has touched upon will be explained ... Our focus is on the answers and facts."
I won’t say anything about our ties with Singapore. But I take note that Syed Hamid “does not want to jeopardise bilateral ties between Malaysia and Singapore.” We leave this issue for another occasion.
For now, let us say that too much time has already been wasted. Some of the issues raised by Dr Mahathir are months old. Take the AP (approved permits for the importation of motorcars) for instance.
It has been more than a year. International Trade and Industry Minster, Datuk Seri Rafidah Aziz, had “answered” it and the Parliament had “debated” it. But it was revealed just a few weeks ago that the same AP Kings continued to be issued the permits and the number had not changed much.
MV Agusta by Proton and the termination of Tengku Mahaleel’s contract as Proton’s CEO had been repeatedly “explained” by the new Proton’s management. That sale had reportedly caused Proton an RM500-million in book loss had also been explained.
Even the cancellation of the crooked, scenic bridge project had been “explained” by ministers, including Syed Hamid, and senior officials. I had also been thoroughly spun for public consumption by the mainstream media, but to no avail.
There are still enough people who believe that Dr Mahathir has a valid point in not wanting to end his quest for “real” explanation from the “real” power.
Maybe it’s not just the explanation, rather the way that it has so far been made and the people making it. That’s has to be the reason why Dr Mahathir finally demanded that the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, himself should answer his queries and charges.
So, if we consider that as important or as fundamental to the standoff, the issuance of the booklet may help to resolve the technical aspect of the problem but will not extricate us from the political quagmire because the Prime Minister is not likely to end his “elegant silence ” – to quote the term created by Tun Musa Hitam.
The most that we can expect the Prime Minister to say is, I stand by the explanations set out in the booklet. Here, maybe the Prime Minister’s capable political, media and administrative aides may have to revisit their strategy of forbidding him from confronting Dr Mahathir personally.
Who knows that if Abdullah is left to his own devices (and choices) we would have a better chance of seeing the tiff between him and Dr Mahathir amicably ended!
After all, Abdullah-Mahathir (or Mahathir-Abdullah) political partnership – if such a term can be used -- predated all the “Khairies”, the spin-doctors and the Oxbridge cabal who are said to have a stranglehold on the Prime Minister.
And, can’t Umno leaders rise above their narrow personal interest and fears to act as men and women of courage and wisdom to get these two persons together? Or are we expecting too much?
On a different note but still involving Singapore, I am bothered by persistent rumours that a member of the Cabinet had gone to the republic to hold a “happening” 52nd birthday party.
I hope this is a fitnah because if it’s true, it’s not good – to put it very, very mildly -- for the country, especially now when relations with Singapore is in a volatile state. We could be compromising our national security.