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Mahathir back in action - Malaysia under the spotlight

Updated On: Jan 12, 2007

Mahathir is swinging back into action, resuming his criticism against the Malaysian government after a two-month absence brought about by a mild heart attack.

He took direct aim on Abdullah’s pet project – the South Johor Economic Region – claiming that allowing “free access zones” in South Johor would only turn the area into “extra-territorial” land for Singapore.  He also predicted that the Barisan Nasional would lose the by-election in the constituency of Batu Talam in Pahang, made necessary because of the death of the state’s assembly leader Tengku Paris Tengku Razlan.  This he attributed to the fact that he sensed growing public dissatisfaction with the government.

Confirming perhaps this growing dissatisfaction is the announcement by two of Malaysia’s leading opposition parties, PAS and Keadilan that they would be boycotting the by-election in Batu Talam because of concerns that the poll “might be blighted with fraud”.  For Abdullah who swept into overwhelming victory in 2004 on the promise of reforms and tackling corruption, this does not speak well.

Indeed, 2006 has not ended on a sweet note for Abdullah, and 2007 did not begin with a big bang. Instead, he was greeted by devastating floods resulting in 17 deaths, and damages in the millions.  The Visit Malaysia Year also did not get off a good start with Malaysian ministers themselves admitting that rising crimes and recent floods may pose problems in attracting investors and tourists.  Malaysian High Commissioner to Singapore added to this voice noting that crimes in Johor may be “scaring off S’pore visitors”.   

Tensions at the Thai-Malaysia border and bilateral relations between the two neighbours have been a little testy over Thai allegations that Malaysia harboured some of the extremists responsible for the increasing violence in the Thai south.  On Wednesday (10 January) four Malaysian soldiers were injured in explosions allegedly coming from grenades hurled from the Thai side.  Malaysian’s army has launched an investigation, and security at the border has been tightened.

Sources:

BN could lost by-election, warns Mahathir (Straits Times, 9 January 2007)

Visit Malaysia Year may be hit by blasts and disasters (Straits Times, 10 January 2007)

Malaysia opposition parties boycott by-election (Straits Times Interactive, 11 January 2007)

Malaysia probes grenade attack at Thai border post (Straits Times Interactive, 11 January 2007)

Stains on Malaysia’s red carpet (Today, 11 January 2007)

Crimes in Johor “scaring off S’pore visitors” (Straits Times, 12 January 2007)