Mahathir detects foreign plots as poll approaches

From Conor O'Clery, in Beijing

Everywhere he looks these days, Dr Mahathir Mohamad claims to see plots to discredit Malaysia, mainly by foreigners who hate the idea of a Muslim country being run by a "disciplined" ruling party.

The latest example spotted by the Malaysian prime minister is actor Sean Connery's new film, Entrapment. Dr Mahathir accused the US film-makers, 20th Century Fox, yesterday of distorting the truth by splicing together scenes shot far apart.

"We are horrified to find that the Kuala Lumpur Twin Towers, the tallest buildings in the world, are pictured as rising from the slums of Malacca 150 km away," he told foreign advertising executives in the Malaysian capital.

In this respect, the 73-year-old prime minister is correct. In the movie, Mr Connery and Welsh actress Catherine Zeta-Jones, playing an art robber and an insurance investigator, sail down a filthy river with Kuala Lumpur's 452metre twin Petronas Towers glimmering in the background. The river scenes were shot in Malacca, not Kuala Lumpur, and are spliced with images of the 88storey skyscrapers.

"The distorted view of the twin towers will certainly make the movie audiences in rich countries conclude that Malaysia is one of those developing countries which waste public funds, perhaps even foreign aid, on useless grandiose monuments, he complained.

While taking understandable offence at the unfair image of modern Malaysia, Dr Mahathir's attack on Hollywood was undoubtedly made with an eye to domestic politics. He has recently ratcheted up his usual anti-foreign rhetoric as he needs a popular cause to ensure that his 18-year spell as prime minister continues.

The ruling UMNO party has been losing ground steadily since Malaysian politics was rocked last year by the jailing of Dr Mahathir's chief critic within the government, the deputy prime minister, Mr Anwar Ibrahim.

The downfall of Mr Anwar, who is now serving six years on various sexually-related charges, has been widely perceived in the West and among Malaysia's young middle class voters as a political assassination designed to protect cronyism at the top.

At last week's UNMO party conference, Dr Mahathir accused Mr Anwar of being a tool of foreign powers "planning to install their puppet as UMNO leader and prime minister".

Dr Mahathir, who must call an election by June 2000, also hit out again at the foreign press yesterday, saying it had highlighted street demonstrations and other "adverse reports" since the sacking of Mr Anwar last September.

Dipetik dari The Irish Times

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