Former U.S. Envoy Asks Bush Not to Meet Mahathir
Reuters, April 17, 2002
By Simon Cameron-Moore
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia—Washington’s ambassador to
Malaysia at the height of the Anwar crisis implored President Bush Wednesday
to withdraw his invitation to Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad to visit the
White House next month. Former ambassador John Mallot’s three-year stint in
Malaysia covered the period when Mahathir sacked his Deputy Prime Minister
Anwar Ibrahim, who was then jailed.
A career diplomat appointed by the former Clinton administration, Mallot
remains a bitter critic of the veteran Malaysia leader and an advocate for
Anwar, now serving a 15-year jail sentence for abuse of power and sodomy.
"I think my President George Bush should reconsider his position on
whether to meet Prime Minister Mahathir," Mallot told Reuters from
California, where he now teaches.
Bush will thank Mahathir for his support for the war on terror during a
visit set for May 13-15. U.S. concern about what it called Anwar’s flawed
and politically tainted trials has been muted since the Sept. 11 plane attacks
on the United States, with the focus now on Mahathir’s detention of alleged
"In order to combat terrorism after September 11 we are ready to hold
our noses again and meet people who abhor and step on every principle the
United States has believed in for the past 200 years," said Mallot, who
retired early from government service in 1999 after 31 years.
U.S. officials played down Mallot’s views. "Mr. Mallot retired from
the foreign service three years ago and the view he expresses are those of a
private citizen," said a U.S. embassy official in Kuala Lumpur.
Clearly, James A. Kelly, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian
and Pacific Affairs, had different priorities when he met Mahathir during a
visit to Kuala Lumpur in the past week.
Kelly said he did not raise the Anwar issue in talks largely focused on the
war on terror, and warmly praised Mahathir.
Mallot voiced support and concern for six Anwar supporters who have gone on
hunger strike at a detention camp in northern Malaysia, where they are being
held without trial under a security law. Anwar joined the hunger strike Sunday
night but is taking fluids.
A Malaysian official says the men, who were arrested a year ago and are
accused of plotting the overthrow of the government, will be force-fed should
their condition deteriorate seriously.
Former ambassador Mallot said Malaysia has consistently given solid support
to the United States in efforts to counter narcotics and terrorism, and valued
U.S. military cooperation.
But he said Mahathir, while always ready to woo U.S. business, showed scant
regard for democracy, human rights and freedom.
These are principles Anwar genuinely upholds, Mallot says.
Many leading Malaysian moderates resent Mallot’s commenting on Malaysian
affairs, saying the United States is in no position to preach given its own
record of mandatory death sentences, urban violence, recorded instances of
police brutality, its record on racial issues, and its painful history in
Moderate Malaysians were also offended by vice-president Al Gore’s praise
for Anwar supporters demonstrating for political change while he visited Kuala
Lumpur in November 1998.
Mahathir has led Malaysia for 21 years, heading a multi-ethnic coalition
currently holding a two-thirds majority.
Anwar’s National Justice Party (Keadilan) is the smaller partner in an
alliance with a fundamentalist Parti Islam se-Malaysia (PAS).
Some PAS supporters called for a jihad, or holy war, against the United
States following the U.S.-led bombing of Afghanistan, and some have been
arrested on suspicion of militancy.
Elections are due by 2004.
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