Mahathir attacks West in New Year message

Ulhas Joglekar ulhasj at
Wed Jan 5 05:50:28 PST 2000

1 January 2000 Mahathir attacks West in New Year message KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia's Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad on Friday welcomed the new millennium with a trademark attack on the West, describing globalization as an attempt to colonize poor nations. "The former colonial masters have plans to recolonize us," Mahathir said in a New Year's Day message. "The rich will become richer and the poor will work to enrich the wealthy," Mahathir was quoted as saying by the national news agency Bernama. Mahathir became a strong critic of free trade since the Asian currency and stock market tumble pushed Malaysia into its worst recession in decades. He blamed Western currency speculators for the crisis and Western government for refusing to restrict them. In September 1998, he imposed exchange controls, restricting foreigners from repatriating their investments for at least one year and pegging the currency, the ringgit, at 3.8 to the U.S. dollar. He also kept interest rates low and boosted government spending. The restrictions have since been eased, and in the April-June quarter, Malaysia's economy grew for the first time after shrinking for five quarters. "They tried and nearly succeeded but we were able to foil the attempt this time and we were able to revive our country's economy," said Mahathir, who has ruled the Southeast Asian nation for 18 years. In a separate message, opposition leader Azizah Ismail said Malaysia's biggest problem was its lack of political freedom. The wife of jailed politician Anwar Ibrahim called on Malaysians to join her campaign for political change. "We call upon Malaysians to dedicate themselves anew to the great task that lies ahead -- the task of building a just society," she said in a statement. (AP) For reprint rights: Times Syndication Service
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