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Malaysia

MAHATHIR ISSUES WARNING ON MONEY POLITICS DESTROYING THE NATION

Updated: June 28, 1994 05:00 PM GMT
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The prevailing money politics ultimately will destroy the country, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has warned.

Mahathir was speaking in Kuala Lumpur at a mid-June extraordinary general assembly of his United Malay National Organization (UMNO), the main party in the Barisan Nasional (national front, ruling coalition).

Unless the party takes the lead to curb the practice, the UMNO president declared, money politics will rule the whole system of government and society.

Corruption then "will become the culture of the whole administration," he said.

Mahathir´s warning that corruption will intensify if sincere efforts are not implemented to stamp it out was widely echoed by radio and television reports amid comments that the alarm bell was being struck none too soon.

A recent election in East Malaysia´s Sabah state was reportedly riddled by corruption and money politics, with rumors claiming that cash was handed out to villagers as an inducement to vote for certain candidates.

Professing that party elections in 1987 spawned money politics within UMNO, Mahathir blames splinter groups for "giving bribes at hotels, in the toilets and making promises to appoint many members to positions of ´mentri besars´ (chief state minister), deputy ministers and ministers," and for passing out gifts of money and kind, and for paying for their holidays.

The prime minister has also accused his opponents of playing dirty politics, asserting that when the opposition Malayan Islamic Party uses Koranic verses to influence voters, this was the same as using money to buy votes.

Mahathir urged opposition parties to be as honest as UMNO.

Noting that money politics among "bumiputras" (sons of the soil, indigenous peoples) is caused by greed for money and power, he lamented that financial wealth and power among Malays and bumiputras have caused a decline in morals.

"By only having the power of one vote," Mahathir declared, "we have become so irresponsible that we are prepared to sell our integrity, our party and our race. What more if we were to have more than just the power to vote."

In response to his call, UMNO members agreed to amend the party constitution so that anyone found guilty of corruption or money politics would be punished.

The amendments have been sent to the Registrar of Societies for approval.

Mohamad Rahmat, secretary general of UMNO´s disciplinary committee, was reported as saying the amendments will define "money politics and abuse of power," and include "guidelines on how the new rules are to be carried out and procedural aspects."

Mahathir said that corrupt leaders will not be fielded as candidates for Barisan Nasional in general elections. The next elections are scheduled for 1995, but some expect elections to be called before the end of this year.

While "selection of candidates for the general election will be based on ´clean´ candidates," Mahathir said only those guilty of corruption and money politics after the party constitution amendments are enacted will be punished because "we cannot act on what was committed before the regulation was there."

Observers say most people feel this should have been done a long time ago.

Commentators say that today´s youth need to have honest and upright leaders to emulate, and that unchecked corruption will destroy the fabric of Malaysian society, leaving young people to find solace in drugs and aimless living.

END

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