I've been following our (or rather, the Government's) "recent spat with The Economist":http://jeffooi.blogspot.com/2003_04_27_jeffooi_archive.html#93631508 with some humour lately; it almost seems like a couple of kids have been thrown into a sandbox and are beginning to play that game i think we all played once-upon-a-time, "You said, i said, you said".
Mustapa Mohamed of the "National Economic Action Council":http://www.neac.gov.my/start.cfm wrote a response that "The Economist has duly printed":http://www.economist.com/opinion/displayStory.cfm?story_id=1763494. Just in case the link becomes lost, i've reproduced below in its entirety with due credit to The Economist and Mr. Mohamed. Its interesting to note The Economist officially apologizing at the end of the letter even though "most predicted that they wouldn't":http://jeffooi.blogspot.com/2003_04_27_jeffooi_archive.html#93517163.
Also, don't miss the letter written by Francis Yeoh. "He was interviewed":http://www.economist.com/opinion/displayStory.cfm?Story_id=1677242 for "the piece The Economist published":http://www.economist.com/opinion/displaystory.cfm?story_id=1677228, but he feels that his "contribution" has been used in an article that unfairly judges Dr Mahathir.
SIR – Your survey of Malaysia (April 5th) is full of errors. For example, Christopher Lockwood hopes that the quota system for entry into Malaysian public universities will be abolished; yet it was discarded in 2001. He says that even foreign banks in Malaysia are obliged to provide Islamic banking services. This will come as a big surprise to Malaysia's Central Bank and the many foreign (and, for that matter, domestic) banks in Malaysia.
He says that under Malaysia's version of America's Patriot Act, “ministers have almost unfettered discretion to hold suspects for an initial 60 days.” This will be news to Malaysia's ministers, not a single one of whom has fettered or unfettered discretion “to hold suspects”. This power lies with the police.
Mr Lockwood says that Malaysia's very competitive democratic system is not between political parties but “among shifting coalitions, whose membership is never fixed for long”. It so happens that the Barisan Nasional, the ruling coalition that has been at the centre of Malaysian politics since 1972 has been incredibly stable, with a membership practically unchanged—and at the core certainly unchanged—for 31 years.
Even more serious are the snide remarks. With all due respect, who are the “many” Malaysians who see Mahathir Mohammed, the Malaysian prime minister, more “as a jailer than a guardian of his people”? In what way has Dr Mahathir been a dictator? Mr Lockwood reserves the unkindest personal cut for his final sentence: “The greatest service Dr Mahathir could render Malaysia after all these years would be to retire, full stop.” Yet Dr Mahathir has clearly and repeatedly made known that he intends to step down completely from every government post in October. What is the point of telling a man to step down when he himself decided, without the slightest pressure or provocation, at the very pinnacle of his popularity, that that was exactly what he would do?
Malaysia is said by you to be a “qualified success”. Pray, do tell us what country in the world over the last 1,000 years is an unqualified, complete and utter success? And pray do tell us how many developing countries have done better than Malaysia under a man whom Mr Lockwood himself acknowledges is the longest serving “democratically elected leader in power anywhere in the world”?
National Economic Action Council
Editor's note: We apologise for our error over university quotas: a new merit-based system has been implemented this year. However, foreign banks do indeed say they feel obliged to offer Islamic banking. The composition of the Barisan Nasional does keep changing (we did not say the “core” did). Under the Internal Security Act the police act on the orders of the home minister, with no substantive judicial review. Readers can judge our survey for themselves "here":http://www.economist.com/opinion/displaystory.cfm?story_id=1677228.
SIR – I am listed among those interviewed for the "survey on Malaysia":http://www.economist.com/opinion/displaystory.cfm?story_id=1677228 and therefore by implication a contributor. I do not appreciate this type of blanket attribution, which brackets me with a number of persons whose views I do not share.
Where your survey relies on objective analysis it is unexceptionable and I thank you for your tribute to the “remarkable achievements” of our prime minister, even if to my mind it is inadequate. This man raised up our society and as Malaysians we honour him. It is the subtext of snide commentary to which I object. This is much more subjective and appears to single out Dr Mahathir personally for unwarranted criticism.