Malaysia wooing with politics in dance

Kuala Lumpur : (South News) : From traditional Malay to contemporary Chinese melodies, fireworks and lasers, politics was not far away at the XVI Commonwealth Games opening ceremony in the national stadium in Bukit Jalil.

The centrepiece of the opening ceremony was a 40-minute retelling of history in the context of a dance drama from the olden days and foreign superpowers and on to independence and development of Malaysia.

In the awesome glitter of the curtain raiser opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games, transmitted live across the globe, featured volunteers in all shapes and sizes fanning a spirit of patriotism in a country facing economic problems.

On the eve of  KL '98 Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad said Malaysia must undertake its own financial reform since its appeal to the world community to regulate and bring order to the financial market has gone unheeded.

"If the international community cannot change, then Malaysia must undertake its own reform," Dr Mahathir said in an article he wrote for the Time magazine published in its Sept 14 issue.

He said although Malaysia might fail in its reform efforts, "we are going to do our damnedest to succeed, even if all the forces of the rich and the powerful are aligned against us. God willing, we will succeed."

The Prime Minister, said governments were being told that the only system allowed was that of capitalist free markets and of globalisation. "Everyone must accept this system or be considered a heretic and punished accordingly. Not the slightest modification is allowed," he said.

Dr Mahathir said for the capitalist free markets, it did not matter if the unfettered and unregulated free market had destroyed the economies of the whole region.

He said there was a time when Christians believed in killing Christian non-conformists, Muslims and Jews. It went on for 300 years before it dawned upon them that what they were doing was not Christian at all, he said.

Dr Mahathir said many ideologies took decades, even centuries to be acknowledged as wrong. "So the question must be asked: How long before we reject the infallibility of the free-market dogmas?"

He said some were already timidly criticising the International Monetary Fund, the speculators, the capital flows across borders and the right of the self-appointed market forces to discipline elected governments.

"Can we wait 300 years? The damage is already extensive," he said, adding that it would take decades to restore the economies. "Should we fiddle?" the Prime Minister asked.

Last year Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad urged the world community  to outlaw currency manipulation following recent plunges in Southeast Asian currency values. Dr Mahathir said the currency turmoil that hit South-east Asian countries in mid-1997 was initially expected to last only a few months. But more than a year down the road, far from being resolved, the turmoil had spread throughout the world, he said.

"No one has really benefited except possibly the currency traders and share-market speculators," the Prime Minister said.