Dollah passionate in his convictions

1st Nov 1998

The most powerful office on earth, the American presidency is 222 years old. During the period there has been 42 presidents, including Bill Clinton, the beleaguered and injured though still popular lame duck.

There is a strong possibility that the House of Representatives may (depending on the Nov 2 elections) recommend Clinton to be impeached for perjury and obstruction of justice, and if Clinton does not escape the punishment he will become the third president to be so arraigned.

President Andrew Johnson was the first president to be impeached in the House for defying the Tenure of Office Act, and was tried in the Senate and acquitted by a single vote. President Richard Nixon became the second president but he resigned to avoid impeachment over his role in the Watergate scandal.

He never admitted wrong doing, though years later he admitted to errors of judgement.

Clinton is not finished nor is he out of the woods yet but, though troubled, his damaged presidency remains popular. He is not known as a "come back kid" for nothing. The booming American economy is a great help, of course. So stay tuned.

Our government is based on the parliamentary system of government ala Westminister. In plain English on the British line. The highest authority under this system is the Prime Minister, the second most powerful office on earth. Tony Blair is the latest of a long procession of British prime ministers which begun 270 years ago.

Malaysia has had four prime ministers - Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra (1957-70), Tun Abdul Razak (1970-76), Tun Hussein Onn (1976-81) and Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamed. He has just entered his 18th year in power (since July 1981).

Indonesia has had three presidents: Sukarno (1945-1965) Suharto (1966-1998) and Habibie in more than half a century of independence and many vice presidents.

Since the Asian economic crisis and after it engulfed us, and following the sacking of former deputy prime minister, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, and the demonstrations, wherever I go, here or at home, many people have tried to persuade me that Mahathir's authority has diminished.

May be at one time he seemed perilous. Not because I am his ambassador at the United Nations but I have always told all and sundry that Mahathir is still very much in charge.

In Malay politics, appearance is deceptive and many have regretted their actions or in actions.

Mahathir has not devolved power to anyone else so there is no ambiguity about who is in charge at Jalan Dato Onn and in Malaysia.

The Malaysian government has never rejected self reform nor is Umno a self destructive party. It is a versatile and thoroughly pragmatic political organization. It will win the next election whenever it is held.

Whether people like it or not there is no viable alternative to Umno if peace is to prevail. The bumiputras realise that the loss of authority at the national level to the opposition parties would mean the end of their political hold and determining power forever, and, perhaps their future, too.

Arau suffered because of a peculiarly local difficulty. The general support of Malaysians for Umno and the Barisan National component parties is far from finished yet.

Mahathir's grip on Umno is undiminished, even more so now that he is his own Minister of Finance. There was, of course, the appearance in May, and in June leading to September of a cumulative erosion of influence and power, but in reality nothing was like what it seemed or perceived.