The damned foreigners force The Prime
Minister To Visit Permatang Pauh

First the hype. Thirty five thousand would attend The Prime Minister's planned visit to the Permatang Pauh Lion's Den. When the day arrived yesterday, despite the torrential thunderstorm earlier, the warm reception is only to be expected. Despite huddling under umbrellas and in raincoats. Can Daniel enter the Lion's Den but with right and might on his side? But how many attended? We do not know. Even if we were told, it would not reflect the love and affection of the people of Permatang Pauh for the Prime Minister; so it is best that these figures should not cloud this undeniable fact. This love and affection is
strengthened by the foreigners, whose anti-national support for He Who Must Be Destroyed At All Cost forced him to come to Permatang Pauh. But the damned foreigners lost again. The Prime Minister's stirring excoriation of foreigners had them squeaking in fear. The opposition should not be elected because of their connexion with foreigners: the government and National Front's relations with foreigners is to destroy them from within; the opposition's to allow the foreigners to destroy them and Malaysia. The good foreigners support the government with long-term investments, building factories, providing jobs, earning "handsome" profits. The rogue speculators work hand-in-hand with the opposition to roil the currency and stockmarkets and bring perdition to the country.

It was, all in all, a typical Mahathirian performance replete with half-truths and untruths, ocassionally salted (not spiced, since He Who Must Be Destroyed At All Cost has to reduce his salt intake; the more salt in his diet, the better for the government) with thinly veiled truths. Like at the recent UMNO general assembly, the ghost of the Permatang Pauh member of parliament hovered over the proceedings -- the one thing the Prime Minister did not accuse him of was the torrential rain that provided the
bodyguard to his arrival -- to put the Prime Minister and his party on the defensive. A bravura election contest: the National Front would dearly want to take the Permatang Pauh parliamentary constitutency back from itself. Whether it can causes sleepless nights for many. The Prime Minister's shadow boxing is part of his visits around the country before the soon-to-be-held general elections. The speeches are election speeches, reducing complex issues to a simple formula to rally the crowd. He is brilliant in this, far more effective than the opposition except perhaps performers like PAS's Ahmad Sabu. The Prime Minister's demeanour is one of not suffering fools gladly, is uncomfortable with small talk, gives the impression of talking down. But on stage his persona is different. He is believable. His performance in Permatang Pauh, like his UMNO general assembly addresses last month, stiffenced the spines of the party faithful for the expected contest. He might, indeed does, talk nonsense on such occasions, but it is nonsense with a purpose: to rally the faithful.

One should never forget that when assessing the man. His Machiavellian instincts -- if Machiavelli had been Malay, his name would have been Mahathir -- and his cold blooded assessment of his position keeps him a few feet ahead of his rivals. He fails, as he did horribly in destroying He Who Must Be Destroyed At All Cost because the thinking for that was not his; the Penghulu Tikus Rasputin must take credit for that. And look at the mess it brought him. But he recovered sufficiently -- although this may
not save him politically -- to get his wind back to campaign, Even if he does manage to damage the institutions beyond repair. His farcical comment that only the English papers support the government, and the Tamil, Chinese and Malay, papers with conditions just means that the editors of English-language newspapers can be put into straitjackets without threats, but not the language paper editors; that English newspaper editors are malleable to a degree the other editors are not. But his present countrywide tours does put the opposition under pressure, especially when he misquotes them for effect, and with the opposition having no chance to respond in like fashion. His comments about the then deputy prime minister not wanting an official residence in Putra Jaya because he did not want a deputy as prime minister is believed, even if wrong. So long as the opposition do not challenge his statements in its rallies, the Gobbelsian principle of a lie repeated often enough becomes truth takes over. Is the ghost of the Permatang Pauh MP causing me shivers too? I managed this piece without once mentioning his name!

M.G.G. Pillai