Subject: AP: Mahathir Gives E.Timor Democracy Lesson

Also: PM: We will continue with prosper-thy-neighbour policy

Received from Joyo Indonesian News

Associated Press

October 23, 2003

Malaysia's Mahathir Gives East Timor Democracy Lesson

DILI, East Timor (AP)--On the verge of retirement after serving longer than any elected leader in Asia, Malaysia's prime minister gave some advice to the world's newest country on Thursday saying democracy and a free media are good, but both have their limitations.

Mahathir Mohamad, who has overseen rapid growth in Malaysia in his 22 years as prime minister but has been criticized by some as authoritarian, is one of few leaders to visit East Timor since it became independent in May 2002.

The outspoken 77-year old prime minister is currently under fire for recent comments in which he said "Jews rule the world by proxy."

Speaking to East Timorese lawmakers in the tiny country's parliament building, Mahathir warned of the potential pitfalls of a free media and a robust civil society.

"An independent media able to criticize the government is good but that independence can be abused as much as government can abuse its power," he said.

Mainstream media outlets in Malaysia are overwhelmingly controlled by Mahathir's political allies. They are subject to an annual publishing license review by the government, a system that may force some into self-censorship.

Mahathir said that "the right to strike and to demonstrate must be sparingly used. Certainly they should not be with political objectives." He also warned that non-governmental groups "should not unduly harass the government."

International rights groups have criticized Mahathir's government for using the country's draconian internal security act to imprison opposition activists and suspected Muslim militants without trial.

He acknowledged the criticism in Thursday's speech.

"Some quarters have said that Malaysia is not democratic. Clearly their criticism (is) motivated by political considerations. Malaysia is not worried. We are democratic," he said.

Mahathir is leaving office later this month. He has transformed Malaysia, which is 60% Muslim, from a tin- and rubber-producing former British colony into one of Asia's most wealthy and industrialized nations.

East Timor, which endured four centuries of Portuguese colonial rule and 24 years of often brutal Indonesian occupation, is one of the world's poorest countries.

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<http://www.mmail.com.my/Current_News/NST/>New Straits Times » <http://www.mmail.com.my/Current_News/NST/Section/index_html?mysec=National >National

PM: We will continue with prosper-thy-neighbour policy

DILI (TIMOR LESTE), Oct 22: Malaysia will continue with its prosper-thy-neighbour philosophy so that they too can taste development, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad said today.

He said a rich neighbour would be to the benefit of Malaysia because they could become the market for Malaysian-made goods.

He said the philosophy could be used not only for close neighbours but also to countries far away from Malaysia.

Citing Sept 11, 2001 terror attack as an example, Dr Mahathir said although the incident took place in New York, it had an impact on Malaysia, he said at a dinner with Malaysians here in conjunction with his three-day visit to Timor Leste beginning today.

Dr Mahathir, here at the invitation of his Timor Leste counterpart, Mari Alkatiri, who met him at the Nicalao Lobato International Airport, is the first foreign head of government to make an official visit to this country since its independence in May 2002.

He is accompanied by wife Datuk Seri Dr Siti Hasmah Mohamed Ali.

On Timor Leste, Dr Mahathir said he was confident the nation could achieve the level of development like in Malaysia.

He said the situation in Malaysia was similar to that in Timor Leste now when it attained independence in 1957 and had to face various challenges to develop the country to what it is today.

The official welcoming ceremony will be held tomorrow morning at the Government Palace.

The Prime Minister will later address the Parliament session and lay the foundation stone for the proposed Malaysian embassy complex.

He will later call on Timor Leste President Xanana Gusmao. ­ Bernama


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